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met Novacek- oviraptor questions(mostly)
I was lucky enought o be invited by the Cal Academy of in SF to help
out on the Jurassic Park exhibit as a volunteer-talking to people about
the fossils and such- and last night I was asked to help out with a
special exhibit since the museum was having Mike Novacek give a slide
show presentation on his recent trip into Mongolia and the "Brooding
Oviraptor" find in particular. I was fortunate enough to attend the
slide show as well, and asked Mike one or two questions about some of the
stuff at the site.
During his presentation I came up with several questions that I knew
that he wouldn't be able to go into in depth there, and afterwards I only
asked him some basic things and now want to ask more of the envolved
(what he said)
He spoke of the aridness of the area at the time the animals were
living, and represented the site as being similar to oasis at the edge of
the Sahara today, with some vegetation, and some evidence of ponds. And
of course, the sand storms.
He spoke of the colected biomass from the sites in Mongolia, and
showed a slide where he represented various species found by all the
expeditions he had information on (not all the Russian expeditions are
available). In the collection areas he found the "brooding Oviraptor",
they've found an amazing 400 lizard specimens, something like 250 mammal
specimens, some ankylosaurids, therapods, Protoceratops, Troodon, and
Oviraptor, with lizards being predoment in numbers, then mammals, then
I wanted to know, since he had worked with the actual animal, what those
'teeth-thingies' could possibly be for? (the ones in the back of the roof
of the mouth) and he said....someone named (Birnell? Birschnell?)(I
regret not taking notes at this point) suggested that the
'teeth-thingies' were for crushing molluscs.
question #1-if this was a desert, what molluscs were present? There was
no mention in the collection of biomass for arthropods or molluscs, yet
shells are one thing that should survive just about any fossilization
process especially one which was so good at preserving what this area
had. Unless they were slugs, in which why would Oviraptor need
'teeth-thingies' to crush them? What was this (Birschnell? Birnell?)
seeing that I'm not? (I remember the presentation from SVP 94 from Phil
Curries' expedition to Ulan Bataar, where some evidence of spiders, at
least, were shown in one slide)
question #2-what is the correct term for the 'teeth-thingies'? Mike
referred to them as 'plates". I am assuming they were not true teeth,
and did not have roots nor enamel, so what part of the skull were they,
and what would you call a tooth that was not made out of a tooth?
Then on hearing that this guy (B-what-ever) thought they were for
crushing molluscs, I asked if there was any wear on them (cleverly, I
thought, since they would not have enamel on them to keep them from
wearing), and Mike looked sort of bemused and said "no they didn't have
any wear on them"
question #3- so what were they for, if they didn't 'chew, bite, crush, or
stab" anything with them enough to put any wear on them?
so I've been thinking.......you know how some seagulls have a seasonal
breeding coloration on their beaks that's a red spot, so when the chicks
which peck at red spots peck at the parents' beak, the parents will
regurgitate food for them? Could this be something like that? But,
naturally, not seasonal since it's part of the skull permanently, and
apparently on both sexes since all Oviraptors found have them, so could
this also be indicative of parental care by both sexes?
Qestion #4- not Oviraptor related- since both Stegasaurs AND Ankylosaurs
have tail spikes, are both species' tail spikes "thagomisers" or is that
term saved for only one group?