Disreputable dinosaur hatches a more caring image

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The Independent Online
The reputation of the Oviraptor, a much-maligned dinosaur from Mongolia, will be salvaged by the Natural History Museum in May, when it stages an exhibition of dinosaurs which have never before been seen in the UK.

The Oviraptor had no teeth and a powerful beak. It was thought to be a predatory creature which fed on the eggs of other dinosaurs. Hence its name, which means "egg robber". A 1924 expedition found an Oviraptor skeleton perched on a nest of eggs thought to belong to a female Protoceratops, which gave credence to the theory. But in 1993 it was revealed that this Oviraptor was merely performing her motherly duties. Another egg like the ones in the nest was found, so well preserved it was possible to see an embryo crouched inside. It wasn't a baby Protoceratops, but an Oviraptor. The 1924 specimen was merely sitting on her own young, she was not poised to gobble up the eggs.

The discovery was also remarkable as there was no previous evidence that dinosaurs actually sat on their eggs like birds, although Angela Milner, who works at the museum, in South Kensington, west London, is quick to insist that many dinosaurs would not have done this as they were far too big.

This Oviraptor embryo can be seen in the exhibition, which has the current working title "Gobi Desert Dinosaurs", as can the world's only replica of the mother and her nest.

"This is some of the best material in the world, and most of these dinosaurs will not be known to the British public," said Ms Milner.

The skull of a Velociraptor, famed for opening doors in Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park, will also be on display. The exhibition will run from 18 May to 31 August.