December 21, 1995
Web posted at: 1:00 p.m. EST (1800 GMT)
From Correspondent Michael Okwu
NEW YORK (CNN) -- Those of you who think of dinosaurs only as big and brutish, try this: Picture the bully brooding on a nest of eggs, like a common bird.
Scientists from the United States and Mongolia say they have found the first strong fossil evidence to support the theory that dinosaurs are linked to modern day birds.
"What we found is an adult oviraptor, which is a bipedal carnivorous dinosaur," said dinosaur paleontologist Mark Norell. "(It's) very closely related to living birds, (and it was) sitting on a nest of eggs in a position which is the same as a modern chicken, pigeon, or turkey would be sitting on its nest."
Scientists have long known of physical similarities that indicated a connection between birds and dinosaurs, but there was no direct evidence of behavioral similarities, such as brooding eggs or caring for their offspring.
"We've had nests and babies and all sorts of things, but we had never had the direct evidence of the parent with the eggs," said Jack Horner, curator of paleontology at the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Montana. "By far this is the strongest evidence of some kind of parental attention."
The notion that dinosaurs were primarily self-serving, forever-feeding Godzillas has been popularized in films such as "Jurassic Park," but most of them probably were much different.
"We should really think of them of being more like birds than more like giant lizards or crocodiles," said Norell, (60K AIFF sound or 60K WAV sound) who was in the team of scientists unearthed the nine-foot-long, 80 million-year-old fossil in the Mongolian desert two years ago. He said the evidence that dinosaurs played an active role in caring for and protecting their offspring not only further solidifies the well-accepted idea that modern day birds evolved from the ancient beasts, but also supports an even closer connection.
"It tells us that some of these behaviors that we think of as living bird behaviors, like sitting on nests, evolved long before birds evolved," Norell said. "Not only did birds come from dinosaurs, but I think we can safely say that birds are a kind of dinosaur." (60K AIFF sound or 60K WAV sound)
The fossil find also raises other questions for paleontologists. Were the dinosaurs warming their eggs or perhaps protecting them from the dry desert heat?
The fossil, located by a team that included scientists from the American Museum of Natural History in New York, George Washington University in Washington and the Mongolian Academy of Sciences in Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia, goes on display this week at the entrance of the New York facility.
It's sure to spark the curiosity of young museum-goers there who are just starting to understand and appreciate the theory that birds and dinosaurs are first cousins. (77K AIFF sound or 77K WAV sound)
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