Chicken-sized oviraptorid dinosaurs from central China and their ontogenetic implications

Abstract

Oviraptorids are a group of specialized non-avian theropod dinosaurs that were generally one to 8 m in body length. New specimens of baby oviraptorids from the Late Cretaceous of Henan Province are some of the smallest individuals known. They include diagnostic characters such as the relative position of the antorbital fenestra and the external naris, distinct opening in the premaxilla anteroventral to the external naris, antorbital fossa partly bordered by premaxilla posterodorsally, lacrimal process of premaxilla does not contact the anterodorsal process of the lacrimal, parietal almost as long as frontal; in dorsal view, posterior margin forms a straight line between the postzygapophyses in each of the fourth and fifth cervicals; femur longer than ilium. They also elucidate the ontogenetic processes of oviraptorids, including fusion of cranial elements and changes in relative body proportions. Hind limb proportions are constant in oviraptorids, regardless of absolute body size or ontogenetic stage. This suggests a sedentary lifestyle that did not involve the pursuit of similar-sized prey. The functional implications for bite force and therefore dietary preferences are better understood through the study of such small animals. The comparison of the measurements of 115 skeletons indicates that oviraptorids maintain their hind limb proportions regardless of ontogenetic stage or absolute size, which is a pattern seen more commonly in herbivores than in carnivores. This may weakly support the hypothesis that oviraptorids are herbivores rather than active carnivores.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 5
Fig. 4

References

  1. Barsbold R (1976) On a new Late Cretaceous family of small theropods (Oviraptoridae fam. n.) of Mongolia. Doklady Akademia Nauk SSSR 226(3):685–688, in Russian

    Google Scholar 

  2. Barsbold R, Maryanska T, Osmólska H (1990) Oviraptorosauria. In Weishampel DB, Dodson P, Osmólska H (eds) The Dinosauria, 1st ed. Univ. of California Press, Berkeley, pp 249–258

  3. Barsbold R, Osmólska H, Watabe M, Currie PJ, Tsogtbaatar K (2000) A new oviraptorosaur (dinosaur, theropod) from Mongolia: the first dinosaur with a pygostyle. Acta Palaeontol Polonica 45:97–106

    Google Scholar 

  4. Benson RBJ, Butler RJ, Carrano MT, O’Connor PM (2011) Air-filled postcranial bones in theropod dinosaurs: physiological implications and the ‘reptile’–bird transition. Biol Rev 87:168–193

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources of Henan Province (1989) Regional Geology of Henan Province. Geological Publishing House, Beijing, pp 1–772

  6. Campione NE and Evans DC (2012) A universal scaling relationship between body mass and proximal limb bone dimensions in quadrupedal terrestrial tetrapods. BMC Biology 10:60. http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/10/60

    Google Scholar 

  7. Carpenter K (1982) Baby dinosaurs from the Late Cretaceous Lance and Hell Creek formations and a description of a new species of theropod. Contrib Geol Univ Wyoming 20:123–134

    Google Scholar 

  8. Christiansen P (1999) Long bone scaling and limb posture in non-avian theropods: evidence for differential allometry. J Paleontol 19:666–680

    Google Scholar 

  9. Clark JM, Norell MA, Chiappe LM (1999) An oviraptorid skeleton from the late Cretaceous of Ukhaa Tolgod, Mongolia, preserved in an avian-like brooding position over an oviraptorid nest. Am Mus Novit 3265:1–36

    Google Scholar 

  10. Clark JM, Norell MA, Barsbold R (2001) Two new oviraptorids (Theropoda: Oviraptorosauria), Upper Cretaceous Djadokhta Formation, Ukhaa Tolgod, Mongolia. J Vert Paleontol 21(2):209–213

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Clark JM, Norell MA, Rowe T (2002) Cranial anatomy of Citipati osmolskae (Theropoda, Oviraptorosauria), and a reinterpretation of the holotype of Oviraptor philoceratops. Am Mus Novit 3364:1–24

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Coria RA, Currie PJ (2006) A new carcharodontosaurid (Dinosauria: Theropoda) from the Upper Cretaceous of Argentina. Geodiversitas 28:71–118

    Google Scholar 

  13. Cracraft J (1971) Caenagnathiformes: Cretaceous birds convergent in jaw mechanism to dicynodont reptiles. J Paleontol 45:805–809

    Google Scholar 

  14. Currie PJ (1978) The orthometric linear unit. Journal of Paleontology 52:964–971

    Google Scholar 

  15. Currie PJ (1985) Cranial anatomy of Stenonychosaurus inequalis (Saurischia, Theropoda) and its bearing on the origin of birds. Can J Earth Sci 22:1643–1658

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Currie PJ (2003a) Cranial anatomy of tyrannosaurid dinosaurs from the Late Cretaceous of Alberta, Canada. Acta Palaeontol Polonica 48(2):191–226

    Google Scholar 

  17. Currie PJ (2003b) Allometric growth in tyrannosaurids (Dinosauria: Theropoda) from the Upper Cretaceous of North America and Asia. Can J Earth Sci 40:651–665

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Currie PJ, Russell DA (1988) Osteology and relationships of Chirostenotes (Saurischia, Theropoda) from the Judith River (Oldman) Formation of Alberta, Canada. Can J Earth Sci 25:972–986

    Google Scholar 

  19. Currie PJ, Zhao XJ (1993) A new large theropod (Dinosauria, Theropoda) from the Jurassic of Xinjiang, People’s Republic of China. Can J Earth Sci 30:2037–2081

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Currie PJ, Godfrey SJ, Nessov L (1993) New caenagnathid (Dinosauria: Theropoda) specimens from the Upper Cretaceous of North America and Asia. Can J Earth Sci 30:2255–2272

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Farlow JO, Hurlburt GR, Elsey RM, Britton AC, Langston WJR (2005) Femoral dimensions and body size of Alligator mississippiensis: estimating the size of extinct Mesoeucrocodylians. J Vertebr Paleontol 25(2):354–369

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. He T, Zhou ZH, Wang XL (2008) A new genus and species of caudipterid dinosaur from the Lower Cretaceous Jiufotang Formation of western Liaoning, China. Vertebrata PalAsiatica 46(3):178–189

    Google Scholar 

  23. Holtz TR (1994) The arctometatarsalian pes, an unusual structure of the metatarsus of Cretaceous theropoda (Dinosauria: Saurischia). J Vertebr Paleontol 14:480–519

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Horner JR, Makela R (1979) Nest of juveniles provides evidence of family structure among dinosaurs. Nature 282:296–298

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Ji Q, Currie PJ, Norrell MA, Ji SA (1998) Two feathered dinosaurs from northeastern China. Nature 393:753–761

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Longrich NR, Currie PJ, Dong ZM (2010) A new oviraptorid (Dinosauria: Theropoda) from the Upper Cretaceous of Bayan Mandahu, Inner Mongolia. Palaeontology 53:945–960

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Lü JC (2002) A new oviraptorosaurid (Theropoda: Oviraptorosauria) from the Late Cretaceous of southern China. J Vertebr Paleontol 22(4):871–875

    Google Scholar 

  28. Lü JC, Tomida Y, Azuma Y, Dong ZM, Lee YN (2004) New oviraptorid dinosaur (Dinosauria: Oviraptorosauria) from the Nemegt Formation of southwestern Mongolia. Bull Natl Sci Mus, Tokyo, Ser C 30:95–130

    Google Scholar 

  29. Lü JC, Tomida Y, Azuma Y, Dong ZM, Lee YN (2005) Nemegtomaia gen. nov., a new generic name for the oviraptorosaurian dinosaur Nemegtia Lü et al., 2004. Bulletin of the National Science Museum, Tokyo, Ser. C 31:51

  30. Lü JC, Zhang BK (2005) A new oviraptorid (Theropod: Oviraptorosauria) from the Upper Cretaceous of the Nanxiong Basin, Guangdong Provinces of southern China. Acta Palaeontol Sinica 44(3):412–422

    Google Scholar 

  31. Lü JC, Xu L, Jiang XJ, Jia SH, Li M, Yuan CX, Zhang XL, Ji Q (2009) A preliminary report on the new dinosaurian fauna from the Cretaceous of the Ruyang Basin, Henan Province of central China. J Paleontol Soci Korea 25(1):43–56

    Google Scholar 

  32. Lü JC, Xu L, Zhang XL, Ji Q, Jia SH, Hu WY, Zhang JM, Wu YH (2007) New dromaesoaurid dinosaur from the Late Cretaceous Qiupa Formation of Luanchuan area, western Henan, China. Geo Bull China 26(7):777–786

    Google Scholar 

  33. Lü JC (2005) Oviraptorid dinosaurs from southern China. Geological Publishing House, Beijing, pp. 208

  34. Lü JC, Dong ZM, Azuma Y, Barsbold R, Tomida Y (2002) Oviraptorosaurs compared to birds. In: Z. Zhou, F. Zhang (eds) Proceedings of the 5th Symposium of the Society of Avian Paleontology and Evolution, Science Press, pp 175–189

  35. Makovicky PJ, Sues HD (1998) Anatomy and phylogenetic relationships of the theropod dinosaur Microvenator celer from the Lower Cretaceous of Montana. Am Mus Novit 3240:1–27

    Google Scholar 

  36. Norell MA, Clark JM, Dashzeveg D, Barsbold R, Chiappe LM, Davidson AR, Mckenna MC, Perle A, Novacek MJ (1994) A theropod dinosaur embryo and the affinities of the Flaming Cliffs Dinosaur eggs. Science 266:779–782

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  37. Norell MA, Clark JM, Chiappe LM, Dashzeveg D (1995) A nesting dinosaur. Nature 378:774–776

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  38. Osborn HF (1924) Three new Theropoda, Protoceratops zone, central Mongolia. Am Mus Novit 144:1–12

    Google Scholar 

  39. Osmólska H (1976) New light on the skull anatomy and systematic position of Oviraptor. Nature 262:683–684

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Osmólska H, Currie PJ, Barsbold R (2004) In: Weishampel DB, Dodson P, Osmólska H (eds) The Dinosauria, 2nd edn. University of California Press, Berkeley, pp 165–183

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  41. Ostrom JH (1961) Cranial morphology of the hadrosaurian dinosaurs of North America. Bull Am Mus Nat Hist 122(2):33–186

    Google Scholar 

  42. Ostrom JH (1964) A functional analysis of jaw mechanics in the dinosaur Tricceratpos. Postilla 88:1–35

    Google Scholar 

  43. Ostrom JH (1966) Functional morphology and evolution of the ceratoposian dinosaurs. Evolution 20:290–308

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. Rosenberg DS, Dodson P (1996) An allometric analysis of dinosaur skeletons. J Vertebr Paleontol 16:61A

    Google Scholar 

  45. Russell DA (1970) Tyrannosaurs from the Late Cretaceous of western Canada. National Museum of Natural Sciences, Publications in Palaeontology 1:1–34

  46. Smith D (1992) The type specimen of Oviraptor philoceratops, a theropod dinosaur from the Upper Cretaceous of Mongolia. Neues Jahrbuch für Paläontology und Geologie, Abhandlungen 186(3):365–388

    Google Scholar 

  47. Snively E, Henderson DM, Phillips DS (2006) Fused and vaulted nasals of tyrannosaurid dinosaurs: Implications for cranial strength and feeding mechanics. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 51(3):435–454

    Google Scholar 

  48. Sternberg RM (1940) A toothless bird from the Cretaceous of Alberta. J Paleontol 14(1):81–85

    Google Scholar 

  49. Sues HD (1997) On Chirostenotes, a Late Cretaceous oviraptorosaur (Dinosauria: Theropoda) from western North America. J Vertebr Paleontol 17:698–716

    Article  Google Scholar 

  50. Swofford DL (2002) Paup*. Phylogenetic analysis using parsimony (*and other methods). Sinauer Associates, Sunderland

    Google Scholar 

  51. Wood BA (1979) Relationship between body size and long bone lengths in Pan ang Gorilla. Am J Phys Anthropol 50(1):23–25

    Article  Google Scholar 

  52. Wu XC, Russell AP (1997) Functional morphology. In: Currie PJ, Padian K (eds) Encyclopedia of dinosaurs. Academic Press, San Diego, pp 258–268

  53. Xu X, Cheng YN, Wang XL, Chang CH (2002) An unusual oviraptorosaurian dinosaur from China. Nature 419:291–293

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  54. Xu X, Tan QW, Wang JM, Zhao XJ, Tan L (2007) A gigantic bird-like dinosaur from the Late Cretaceous of China. Nature 447:844–847

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  55. Xu X, Han FL (2010) A new oviraptorid dinosaur (Theropoda: Oviraptorosauria) from the Upper Cretaceous of China. Vertebr PalAsia 48:11–18

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

We thank Yoshitsugu Kobayashi (Hokkaido University Museum, Hokkaido University, Japan) for making the thin section of the rib of HGM 41HIII-0107. Eva Koppelhus provided support for measuring and photographing the specimens. This study was supported by Natural Science Foundation of China grants (41272022; 40872017), and the study of dinosaur faunas from western and southern Henan Province (2006).

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Junchang Lü.

Additional information

Communicated by: Robert Reisz

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

ESM 1

(PDF 381 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Lü, J., Currie, P.J., Xu, L. et al. Chicken-sized oviraptorid dinosaurs from central China and their ontogenetic implications. Naturwissenschaften 100, 165–175 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00114-012-1007-0

Download citation

Keywords

  • Baby oviraptorid
  • Yulong
  • Late Cretaceous
  • Henan Province