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Conchoraptor gracilis. See more dinosaur images.

Brian Franczak

CONCHORAPTOR (CONK-oh-RAP-tor)

Period: Late Cretaceous

Order, Suborder, Family: Saurischia, Theropoda, Oviraptoridae

Location: Asia (Mongolia)

Length: 4-6 feet (1-2 meters)

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The oviraptorids were peculiar theropods. Smallish, bipedal (they walked on two legs) animals with strong beaks, they may have fed on mollusks by crushing their shells to get the soft meat inside. For many years, only one oviraptorid, Oviraptor philoceratops, was known. Paleontologists classified it as an ornithomimid because its skull was toothless. More oviraptorid specimens were discovered in the 1970s. These have been examined and descriptions were published of two new animals: Oviraptor mongoliensis and Conchoraptor gracilis. The name of the latter species means "slender conch-stealer." Most scientists keep the oviraptorids in their own family, separate from the "ostrich dinosaurs."

Conchoraptor was a smaller animal than its relative Oviraptor. The head of Oviraptor was decorated with bony crests, but Conchoraptor had no decoration. At first, it was thought that Conchoraptor was a juvenile Oviraptor and that the cranial crest developed at the beginning of sexual maturity. Further study of more skeletons-especially the hands-showed that Conchoraptor was a different genus. Its hands seem to be a transitional form, or "missing link," between Oviraptor and the oviraptoridlike small theropod Ingenia. Conchoraptor was found in the Nemegt Formation of Mongolia.