Oviraptor reconstructions

This is a 60-year-old reconstruction of an Oviraptor, from Discovering Dinosaurs, by Glenn O Blough, pictures by Gustav Schrotter, copyright 1960 by Glenn O. Blough. Library of Congress Card Catalog Number 60-8020, Weekly Reader Paperback Book Club edition published by arrangements with McGRAW-HILL BOOK COMPANY.

old drawing of an oviraptor

The irony of reconstructing Oviraptor as a belly-crawling, egg-stealing lizard is that the single Oviraptor fossil probably represents an adult brooding eggs on its own nest, like this:

nesting Oviraptor

Even worse, Oviraptors were feathered, and bipedal:

Oviraptor reconstruction

I’m not sure the author and artist of Discovering Dinosaurs even did what they could in 1960. This is a contemporaneous Oviraptor reconstruction from The Giant Golden Book of Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Reptiles, by Jane Werner Watson, illustrated by Rudolph F. Zallinger, Golden Press, New York, Western Publishing Company, Inc., Copyright 1960, Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 60-14884.

other oviraptor reconstruction

Rudolph F. Zallinger got the upright posture correct. but he still had the idea that Oviraptors were stealing Protoceratops eggs. From the vantage point of 2023, the lack of feathers is disturbing, and on second inspection, so is the lack of a pubic bone. Dinosaur pelvises were well-known during the “Bone Wars”. Why weren’t pelvis shapes considered when doing life reconstructions until very recently? Zallinger’s Oviraptor has pronated its wrists, something that paleontologists agree was impossible for theropod dinosaurs. Generally a bad reconstruction.

Before the dinosaur renaissance, dinosaurs were humdrum fossils, suitable for dusty, muted, muddy colored dioramas in natural history museums. Reconstructed dinosaurs were also muted, muddy-colored, slow, belly dragging beasts. You can see that in the Protoceratops doing push-ups next to the nest.

Here’s a PBS Eons video about getting oviraptors wrong. They added a few feathers or pycnofibers to their “egg stealing” oviraptor reconstruction, and made its pubic bone and posture more bird-like. Zallinger did a weird reconstruction.


Oviraptor life reconstruction is by PaleoNeolitic, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The nesting Oviraptor is By Conty - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0