Big Mama – nesting dinosaurs

Many readers will probably be familiar with the fact that we do have good evidence for dinosaurs not only making, but also caring for nests, not least because in examples like this one, we actually have an adult dinosaur sitting on a nest of eggs. This is the famous ‘Big Mama’ specimen of an oviraptorosaur (this one is actually a Citipati, not an Oviraptor as is often said) sitting on a large nest of eggs. Actually, that’s not quite true, this is a really brilliantly made cast of the original, but you can barely tell that even from very close up, and regardless it’s still a famous specimen and not that often illustrated, so here it is. Well, after the page break, obviously.

IMGP0696It’s usually pretty much standard at this point to rake up the old ‘Oviraptor’ was named wrong canard, so I will, before turning it back on itself again. For those who don’t know the name Oviraptor roughly translates as ‘egg thief’ because the first specimens found were in association with eggs which were thought to belong to the small herbivore Protoceratops. Of course in hindsight it is clear that these animals were probably the parents sticking to their nests rather than opportunists caught in the act, which has been even further emphasised by the discovery of oviraptorosaur embryos in some of those eggs. However, oviraptorosaurs were probably largely omnivorous and I’d be surprised if they didn’t take eggs when they were available – even some pretty ‘herbivorous’ animals are quite happy to eat eggs when available (just like some vegetarians). As a result, while the name is based on a misconception of the fossils and certainly and exaggeration, I’m pretty sure oviraptorosaurs stole and ate eggs on occasion.

Just a short post this time out so I’ll leave it there for dinosaur eggs and nests, and for that matter names and theropod ecology. I’ll return to all of these themes at some point, and some sooner than others I expect (hint-hint).

While the photo was taken by me, I have graciously been given permission to post this by the Fukui Prefectual Museum. Please do not reproduce this.

4 Responses to “Big Mama – nesting dinosaurs”


  1. 1 Allen Hazen 20/05/2009 at 11:09 am

    You say this is a cast. There is something very similar on display(*) at the AMNH in New York– is it the original?

    (*) with video loop of interview with Mark Norell talking about it.

  2. 2 David Hone 20/05/2009 at 12:06 pm

    I’m not sure where the original actually is. Mark has an amazing collection of stuff in the AMNH both original and casts from Asia and he was one of the original authors describing it. He’ll be in Beijing soon I think so I’ll ask him when I see him. Short answer, could well be, but I don’t know and can’t tell from here.

  3. 3 Matt Martyniuk 23/05/2009 at 12:15 am

    I know the original came through the AMNH along with the Fighting Dinosaurs touring exhibit. I’d be surprised if they left the original when the exhibit moved on to other cities, but maybe it was returned there after the tour finished? Last I was at the AMNH they did have this specimen and it didn’t look like a cast (here’s the photo I took http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Citipati_IGM_100_979.jpg), as well as a few eggs with embryos and hatchling Protoceratops that were also left over from the Fighting Dinos tour.

  4. 4 David Hone 23/05/2009 at 9:37 am

    Yes I imagine it’s a cast as they do have great casting facilities and experience at the AMNH and I know that most of their Mongolian stuff went back. That photo does look rather like a well painted cast than an original too.


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