Dinosaurs in the Desert
By Sara Thompson
Special to the Enterprise
The Gobi Desert is a hot, rocky, and unforgiving landscape, but it was not always that way. During the Cretaceous period it was likely covered by forests, streams, and lakes. It is unclear if the landscape was seasonal or not, as evidence of sand dunes is also found in the area, contributing to the well-preserved fossils in the region. Fossils found in the region include turtles, lizards, small mammals, and even dinosaurs.
One of the most famous discoveries from the Gobi Desert is dinosaur eggs. Lead by explorer Roy Chapman Andrews, the expedition found the first scientifically recognized dinosaur eggs in 1923. Although, other eggs had been documented prior to this in other places in the world, the ones in 1923 were the first to be recognized as from dinosaurs.
One of the dinosaur species found in the Gobi Desert is Protoceratops. Also discovered in the 1923 Andrews expedition, Protoceratops is a small ceratopsian dinosaur, it is best known for having a proportionally large head, including a bony frill and a parrot-like beak. This herbivorous dinosaur walked on all four legs and was only between 6-8 feet long.
Another abundantly found dinosaur from the region is Velociraptor. First described from a complete skull and single toe claw, this dinosaur has become one of the most well known in popular culture. Unlike those portrayed in the media, Velociraptor was actually much smaller. Not much longer than 7 feet, it also stood less than 2 feet high. Assemblages and trackways indicate this predator may have lived in small groups, hunting in packs to take down larger prey.
Oviraptor, once thought to be an egg thief as its name suggests, is actually a dedicated parent. The eggs found in 1923 by Andrew’s expedition belonged to Oviraptor, but it wasn’t until 1990 that they would be associated together when an adult was found sitting atop a clutch of eggs. The position of the animal, with its forelimbs positioned back and out, would completely cover a clutch of eggs by the feathers now accepted as part of these animals.
Learn more about dinosaurs, their eggs, and those that study them at our exhibit “Explorit Rocks!” open to the public on Fridays from 1-4pm, Saturdays and Sundays from 10am-2pm. Admission is $5 per person. Explorit Members, ASTC, and those age 2 and under free.
*Photo credit American Museum of Natural History
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