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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   
questions here..........

(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?

 -Betty Cunningham