A pelvis can say so much

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It's an impressive piece of detective work to take a fragment of a fossil and learn something about the behavior of dinosaurs. This is a fossil that consists of only the pelvic region of an oviraptor, which also happens to have a pair of large eggs nestled inside it. This poor female was pregnant at the time of her death, and was just about ready to lay these eggs.

It doesn't sound like much, but here's what we learn from it:

  • -Oviraptors had two functional oviducts, like modern crocodiles. They laid their eggs in pairs.
  • -These are large eggs, and the animal didn't have a lot of room in there—so it only laid a few at a time. It wasn't like modern sea turtles, dumping a load of eggs in a nest all at once.
  • -Oviraptor nests have been found, and they contain many eggs. This had to have been done by repeated visits and multiple egg-laying sessions, suggesting a fair amount of parental investment in the nest.
  • -The pointed end of the egg is pointed caudally. In oviraptor nests, the eggs are all in circular rings, with the pointed end outward. From this we can infer that the mother oviraptor stood in the center of the nest when laying the eggs.

Isn't it cool where a little evidence and logic will take you?

(See a larger image on Pharyngula)

31 Comments

Science is great. It’s like a never-ending episode of Columbo.

“Just one more thing, Mrs. Oviraptor…where were you when your husband was allegedly killed by my client, Mr. Rex?”

Great stuff.

-TTm

Could the cause of death be that she was egg-bound? That could muddy the two oviduct hypothesis (i.e. there are two eggs next to eachother because she’s all backed-up). I may be presumptuous here - the only thing I know about the subject is that reptiles can become egg-bound, and that it’s bad for them.

Wrng gn P.Z. Th pntd nd f th gg lws trls th mr rndd nd n vr frm n whch th gg s nt sphrcl. I wld sggst tht th fml std tsd th crcl s sh ld th ggs s s nt t crsh thm s fst s sh ld thm. Hw s tht fr snd lgc?

And f crs:

Hw d lk thm ppls?

Jhn A. Dvsn

Could oviraptor eggs have been lain by more than one female in a common nest, as the ostriches apparently do? (Although that involves social structure, with the dominant females getting the inside, i.e., protected, location.)

For those of you who were holding your breaths, it turns out that, once again, Davison is full of crap. From the article:

Furthermore, the slightly pointed end of each egg directing caudally inside the body and toward the periphery in the nests (4) suggests that the females came to the centers of the nests to lay neat, multilayered, ring-shaped clutches.

Yes. The evidence is what argues against Davison, as usual.

The idea of a communal nest, though, is a reasonable alternative to repeated visits by a parent.

The idea of a communal nest might be entirely plausible. I know this is more free association than actual science, but I was struck by the finding that the well-preserved insides of the T. Rex bones Horner recently discovered so closely resembled those of ostrich bones. And ostriches do have very interesting communal nesting behavior. The female in charge of the nest seems to be getting stuck with a lot of crappy nursery duty, but the payoff is, she gets to keep her own eggs protected under her, whereas if the nest gets too full, the indentured “nanny” can push some other female’s eggs outside the periphery of care. I’m not sure what sort of evidence could confirm or disconfirm a similar strategy in some dinosaurs, but the basic scheme seems entirely possible.

I guess some sort of massive tragedy at nesting site (maybe a huge landslide?) could provide such evidence…

What a joke. Unverifiable deductive reasoning at its finest. Whoever can write the “best” narrative and supports it with the most rhetoric wins. Who pays for this pseudo-science?

OK mr apeman, what do you make of the observations/ physical evidence presented here? What conclusions do you draw? What exactly do you make of it all? Woudl you like to personally examine the fossil before you make any statements?

No theory “wins” at such an early stage of paleontological investigation. Theories abound now, but later the dominant theory will be the one with the most data. If not enough data is found, scientists won’t have much confidence in any one explanation.

So according to Evolving Apeman, we should simply throw away any evidence we find and not bother to theorise about anything. Intelligent debate and deductive reasoning are ‘pseudo-science’ in the world of Intelligent Design.

“For those of you who were holding your breaths, it turns out that, once again, Davison is full of crap”

I always hold my breath whenever he poots a missive; the air inevitably turns foul.

poor guy.

on the topical side, that is one rare find! Truly amazing. It keeps me wondering what will get picked out of the dirt next.

as to the lessons learned, I too would like to see the possibility that the individual specimen is eggbound, or that it is some other malady, eliminated.

where will the publication appear?

cheers

So according to Evolving Apeman, we should simply throw away any evidence we find and not bother to theorise about anything. Intelligent debate and deductive reasoning are ‘pseudo-science’ in the world of Intelligent Design.

Only when theorizing, intelligent debate and deductive reasoning arrive at speculations contrary to religious doctrine. Then, of course, they are a dangerous waste of time. If doctrine is not threatened, then of course these practices are invaluable and indeed the only way to understand anything.

Hang on folks. Ev. Apeman is xonsulting Kent Hovind maybe?

Ys Rssll bt th rtcl s wht s fll f crp nt Dr. Dvsn. It s prfctl bvs tht knw nthng bt whch nd f th gg cms t f th clc frst. Nthr dd th thr f th rtcl.

“Std Ntr nt bks.” Ls Agssz

Hw d lk thm ppls?

Jhn A. Dvsn

Wh d I cntn t sffr fls?

Jhn A. Dvsn

[ go away, Davison. You’re a tiresome bore. ]

I’m afraid, Mr Davison, that your continued vitriol and tedious stupidities have worn out their welcome, and I’m not interested in sifting through your babble to weigh which comments are mostly harmless and which are just more of your distracting, unproductive farts.

I suggest you look at the authorship of any article here at the Panda’s Thumb before commenting on it. If my name is there, you will be disemvoweled on sight.

PZ,

Why don’t you move comments you don’t like to the bathroom wall? The disemvoweling is childish. I would say it is beneath you, but I don’t think anything is beneath you. You play at science, at best a science reporter, and call people stupid, idiot, moron, etc. That is the extent of your contribution.

As much as I have argued with Gary Hurd, and even received nasty email from him, he at least has some damn good original papers (e.g., on dino blood) that I have used in arguments against YEC. You seem to have nothing original to offer. You are like GWW (though not as clever), but with a larger pulpit.

A warning to everyone: further whining about thread management, on one side or the other, will be dealt with severely. This kind of distraction from the scientific substance of the original post is exactly what these creationists want.

For the first time JAD has a valid point, and then he gets disemvoweled.

From the article

Furthermore, the slightly pointed end of each egg directing caudally inside the body and toward the periphery in the nests (4) suggests that the females came to the centers of the nests to lay neat, multilayered, ring-shaped clutches.

Note there is only evidence of the position inside the body and in the nest. IF the position/form of the egg stays constant within the oviduct, the authors have a valid point. But as far as I remember what I learnt in poultry science at the agricultural university, this assumption is not true. A quick search via google confirms this. Egg-laying is usually with the flat part pointing caudally, and the egg changes position in the oviduct, at least in hens.

Whether we can extrapolate from hens to oviraptors is another point

Please, sanction JAD when he delivers his usual nonsense, but not when he is right :-)

Erik

David Heddle wrote

You seem to have nothing original to offer.

(This was addressing PZ Myers). Do you, David, view as something really original John Davison’s pet phrase about “them apples” repeated on this blog by Davison endessly? While I agree with you that disemvoweling is perhaps not the best way to handle such meaningless posts as those by Davison, what reasons do you have to jump to the defense of Davison? It looks like the only reason is your ideological affinity with Davison’s anti-evolution position. You had the courage to admit that Jay Richards was wrong in his attempt to “disprove” Einstein, so why have you lost courage and do not admit that Davison’s posts are empty of contents and abusive and therefore have no place in a reasonable discussion?

Erik Wrote:

Please, sanction JAD when he delivers his usual nonsense, but not when he is right :-)

Since determining the rare occasions that JAD is right compared to his insistent spamming of these threads with his usual ‘arguments’, PZ Myers’ approach seems understandable. Personally I would just dump Nosivad’s comments to the bathroom wall to serve as an example of JAD’s ‘arguments’…

Alan:

Do you, David, view as something really original John Davison’s pet phrase about “them apples” repeated on this blog by Davison endessly?

No.

John A. Davison Wrote:

Wrng gn P.Z. Th pntd nd f th gg lws trls th mr rndd nd n vr frm n whch th gg s nt sphrcl. I wld sggst tht th fml std tsd th crcl s sh ld th ggs s s nt t crsh thm s fst s sh ld thm. Hw s tht fr snd lgc?

And f crs:

Hw d lk thm ppls?

What is the deal with no vowels here??? I have seen this before, is it some kind of strange protest, or his he making some obscure point?

Ken, maybe nosivad/nosy/Salty is speaking in tongues? Who are we to notice the difference anyway?

Disemvoweling is a public punishment. When commenters get abusive or repetitive, I flense their comments of their vowels – it’s more transparent than just deleting their comment, since with a little effort you can discern what they were ranting about, and it sends a clear message about what we’ll tolerate.

Davison has been a particularly odious little troll, though, and he won’t be showing up often here. He’s been permanently banished to the Bathroom Wall, where he can stink up the joint without bothering the rest of us.

Ah.…I see now…public flensing.….very nice.

“with a lot of crappy nursery duty, but the payoff is, she gets to keep her own eggs protected under her, whereas if the nest gets too full, the indentured “nanny” can push some other female’s eggs outside the periphery of care.”

This implies some recognition mechanism of which we are not aware.

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This page contains a single entry by PZ Myers published on April 15, 2005 9:09 AM.

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