Restoration of Oviraptor, eating a lizard

Oviraptor ("egg thief") is a genus of oviraptorid theropod dinosaur native to the Cretaceous of Mongolia.


Oviraptor is known only from a partial skeleton and eggs. Because the remains are incomplete, the crest often depicted on the genus is not actually preserved - many depictions of Oviraptor are actually based on a close relative, Citipati.[1]

From the material known, Oviraptor grew to about two meters in length from head to tail. Close relatives of Oviraptor had a pygostyle, which implies the presence of feathers.[2]


Oviraptor was initially classified as an ornithomimosaur due to its toothless beak, although this was soon altered. In 1976, Rinchen Barsbold erected a new family of dinosaurs to contain Oviraptor and its relatives, named Oviraptoridae.[3] Other specimens believed to be of Oviraptor have been discovered over the years, but all of them have since been referred to other genera.[4]


The first Oviraptor fossils were discovered by Roy Chapman Andrews, and they were described in 1924 by Henry Fairfield Osborn. The skeleton was discovered atop a pile of eggs, which at the time were believed to come from the ceratopsian Protoceratops. Looking at the large, broad beak of the specimen, Osborn imagined that the creature might have been trying to crack and eat the eggs at the time its death, and so created the genus Oviraptor, which means "egg thief". The specific epithet, philoceratops, means "ceratopsian lover", and was created due to the fact that the eggs were believed to belong to Protoceratops. However, Osborn was cautious in his identification, and suggested that the name Oviraptor "may entirely mislead us as to its feeding habits and belie its character".[5]

In the late 1990s, a specimen of Citipati (originally classified as Oviraptor, but later found to be a close relative instead) was found clearly brooding its own eggs at the time of preservation.[6] Ultimately, Osborn was correct at being cautious. It is now interpreted that the Oviraptor specimen was taking care of its own eggs instead of those of Protoceratops.



The skeleton of a lizard was found in the stomach region of the specimen of Oviraptor, implying that it was at least partially carnivorous (and possibly omnivorous).[7]


  1. Clark, J.M., Norell, M.A. & Barsbold, R. (2001). "Two new oviraptorids (Theropoda:Oviraptorosauria), upper Cretaceous Djadokhta Formation, Ukhaa Tolgod, Mongolia." Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 21(2): 209-213. June 2001.
  2. Paul, G.S. (2002). Dinosaurs of the Air: The Evolution and Loss of Flight in Dinosaurs and Birds. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
  3. Barsbold, Rinchen (1976). "(title in Russian)" [A new Late Cretaceous family of small theropods (Oviraptoridae n. fam.) in Mongolia]. Doklady Akademii Nauk SSSR 226 (3): 685–688.
  4. Barsbold, R. (1986). "Raubdinosaurier Oviraptoren" [in Russian]. In: O.I. Vorob’eva (ed.), Gerpetologičeskie issledovaniâ v Mongol’skoj Narod−noj Respublike, pp. 210–223. Institut èvolûcionnoj morfologii i èkologii životnyh im. A.N. Severcova, Akademiâ nauk SSSR, Moscow.
  5. Osborn, H.F. (1924). "Three new Theropoda, Protoceratops zone, central Mongolia." American Museum Novitates, 144: 12 pages, 8 figs.; (American Museum of Natural History) New York. (11.7.1924).
  6. Clark, J.M., Norell, M.A., & Chiappe, L.M. (1999). "An oviraptorid skeleton from the Late Cretaceous of Ukhaa Tolgod, Mongolia, preserved in an avianlike brooding position over an oviraptorid nest." American Museum Novitates, 3265: 36 pp., 15 figs.; (American Museum of Natural History) New York. (5.4.1999).
  7. Norell, Clark, Chiappe, and Dashzeveg, (1995). "A nesting dinosaur." Nature, 378: 774-776.