Here’s a new addition to the growing catalog of awesome and bizarre dinosaur fossils people keep finding: a handful of oviraptor skeletons that have toothless beaks and only two fingers on each of their hands. The dinosaurs belongs to a clade of relatively spindly, bird-looking bipeds, dubbed theropods. And their discoverers say the new dinosaurs’ hands are vivid examples of evolution working in tandem with migration.
🦕 A newly discovered species of toothless, two-fingered dinosaur has shed light on how a group of parrot-like animals thrived more than 68 million years ago. 🐦— School of GeoSciences @ University of Edinburgh (@GeosciencesEd) October 7, 2020
✍ Study led by Dr Gregory Funston @GeosciencesEd
📑 Published in @RSocPublishing
➡️ https://t.co/MP6SuzVtPh pic.twitter.com/hXgUOFUMIg
BBC News reported on the discovery, which was made in the Gobi Desert in Mongolia. The team responsible for the fossil find was led by paleontologists at the University of Edinburgh in the UK; it recently published its findings in the journal, Royal Society Open Science.
The new species of dinosaur, Oksoko avarsan, thrived more than 68 million years ago, during the Late Cretaceous Period. The team has identified it as belonging to the genus, Oviraptor. Oviraptors, or “egg takers,” were some of the most bird-like dinosaurs, with feathered tail fans and wings.
Gregory Funston, et al./Royal Society Open Science
“Oksoko avarsan is interesting because the skeletons are very complete and the way they were preserved resting together shows that juveniles roamed together in groups,” Dr. Gregory Funston told the BBC. Funston, a co-lead author of the paper, added that the fossils’ double-digit hands prompted him and his colleagues to focus in on how oviraptors’ upper-body appendages evolved as the dinosaurs spread out from southern China into the Gobi region.
The “two-fingered hand prompted us to look at the way the hand and forelimb changed throughout the evolution of oviraptors, which hadn’t been studied before,” Funston added in the BBC report. He says this will help scientists to glean why oviraptors were so diverse during their Late Cretaceous expansion.
Gregory Funston, et al. / Royal Society Open Science
At this point, the paleontologists have concluded that oviraptors were “a minor but exceptionally diverse part” of their ecosystems and “uniquely able to diversify” in Asia. Which goes to show you that Darwin’s famous finches could’ve just as easily been dinosaurs from millions of years ago.
Feature image: Gregory Funston, et al./Royal Society Open Science