With so many fossils having already been discovered it would be easy to think there can’t be many more to find. Even if that was true, every new discovery leads us closer to understand the history of the world we live in. A team of international palaeontologists have taken us one step closer to this understanding with a recent discovery in the Chinese city of Ganzhou.
The discovery was a species of Oviraptor dinosaur, Corythoraptor jacobsi. It is a genus* of small Mongolian theropod dinosaurs which have previously already been found in this region. Therapods are carnivorous dinosaurs who were normally seen to be bipedal*.
One striking characteristic of this dinosaur is its casque, or head. It is distinct and very similar to that of a modern Cassowary bird which is pictured below. These birds are flightless and are a native species to the tropical forests of New Guinea, North Australia and the nearby islands.
It is thought to have been a multifunctional structure which could’ve been used in communication and as an expression of biological fitness* during the mating season. The similarities it has with the Cassowaries also suggest it could have several other functions. It’s large inner cavities could dissipate heat inside the brain case as well as providing enhancement of sounds.
This Oviraptor is the sixth of its kind to be found in the Ganzhou area which shows the most diverse range of Oviraptors anywhere in the world. However, this newly discovered species, is the first of its kind to have such a highly-developed cassowary-like skull.
It differs from the other species in a variety of ways including the orientation of the mandible (the jaw), skull morphology* and structure of the cervical vertebrae*.
The fossil was almost complete which is considered rare due to the specificity of conditions required to produce any fossil at all, let alone a complete one. It was approximately 72 million years old, which places it in the Cretaceous* age which was 100-66 million years ago, so it helps to paint the picture of life all those years ago. The Oviraptor itself has been estimated to be only 8 years old.
This new and fascinating discovery, like so many before it and so many to come adds another piece to the jigsaw of the past and gives an insight into the evolution species since then. Hopefully there are many more discoveries to come!
For anyone interested in seeing exactly where fossils have been found, what they were and how long ago follow the link below.
A class of organisms with common characteristics, it groups all similar species together. (Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species).
Walks on two.
The ability to survive to reproductive age and have offspring.
Shape, form or structure.
The thinnest and most delicate bones in the vertebrae. They have the huge jobs of supporting the head, protecting the spinal cord, and providing mobility to the head and neck.
Denoting a specific time in paleontological history (100-66 million years ago).