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The Incubator of the Gobi Desert

Far out in the Gobi Desert lie the remains of the Citipatis and their bird-like nests. Citipati was an Oviraptorid, which are bird-like dinosaurs. These dinosaurs inhabited Central Asia during the late Cretaceous period, around 75 to 71 million years ago. Citipati laid large elongated eggs arranged in a circle. In the center of the circle, the Citipati would sit and spread its feathered wings and tail over the eggs to protect and incubate them. Citipati had a rather unique appearance.

They had bodies as large as emus and a parrot-like beak with a curved bulge on top of the nostrils. The beak could bite strongly through roots and other tough plant materials, but it is not certain if Citipati solely consumed plants. In one nest, remains of two small Byronosaurus juveniles were found. They could have been brought by a Citipati parent as food for the nestlings. However, another possibility is that they were actually placed there by the Byronosaurus parents, who then avoided the effort of building a nest and incubating the eggs themselves—a phenomenon known as “brood parasitism,” which we see in the modern-day cuckoo that lays its eggs in the nests of smaller songbirds.

Just under 3 meters long

Around 80 kilograms

Late Cretaceous period (75 to 71 million years ago)

Herbivorous, possibly omnivorous (both plant and meat eater, like us)

Discovery sites
Gobi Desert in Central Asia