Here’s a new discovery from China: a giant oviraptorosaur. It’s Beibeilong sinensis, a birdlike dinosaur — all the oviraptorosaurs were kind of birdlike — and it probably weighed about 3 tons and could grow up to 26 feet long, it says here.
Generally the known oviraptorosaurs were much smaller. They mostly did look a good deal like cassowaries and other modern ratites, though often with long tails that were very unbirdlike. Oh, and they had feathers on their short fore-arms, so they looked a good deal like they had wings, but they were definitely flightless.
This picture, from the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, is pretty typical:
If you’re interested enough to want a basic orientation to oviraptorosaurs, I think I remember this well enough, so here goes:
There were two major branches of dinosaurs, Saurischia and Ornithischia. The former included Tyrannosaurs and everything bird-like; the latter Brontosaurus and Triceratops and all those kinds of dinosaurs.
Among the Saurischia branch, the lineages most related to modern birds start with Therizinosaurs, which were these heavy-bodied ground-sloth types, with big powerful forelimbs and really (really) impressive claws. Oviraptorosaurs are generally considered a sister group.
Then Dromaeosaurs, including some very birdlike dinosaurs and also Velociraptors — which were a lot more birdlike than Jurassic Park indicated — branched off from those groups, and so did the also very birdlike Troodons, and true birds originated somewhere in there.
Here’s one of my favorite Dromaeosaurs, Microraptor:
So, anyway. I like this newly discovered giant Oviraptorosaur. It doesn’t surprise me one bit that there turns out to be a huge size range in this family. Why not? After all, we get little tiny rusty-spotted cats (less than four pounds) and giant tigers which can get up pretty near 700 pounds. There were probably more species of Oviraptorosaurs in the history of the world than there are cat species today. We already knew about a range from turkey-sized to up over a ton, so why not a really big one?
There are definitely times I wish I had … not really a time machine, but a camera that could look through time. How I would love to be able to look back and see the beautiful, diverse dinosaur faunas as they used to be!