Over the next few weeks we would apply chisel, pickax and bulldozer to the site, digging up more than a dozen examples of an ostrichlike dinosaur that was to become one of the most well known in the dinosaur world. But the story would soon grow far richer than a simple body count of fossil bones, as intact and well preserved as they might be. This group of individuals would reveal how these dinosaurs interacted with one another, how their society was built, as well as the circumstances surrounding their gruesome and untimely deaths. We were just beginning to uncover the first clues of this 90-million-year-old murder mystery. Little did I know that what we were about to learn would end up making this the richest site for a single dinosaur species I had ever encountered.
The Lure of the Gobi
Americans inevitably associate dinosaur discovery in the Gobi with Roy Chapman Andrews, the swashbuckling expedition leader from the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. In the 1920s Andrews ventured into the desert regions of Outer Mongolia and returned to great fanfare with the first known dinosaur eggs and the sickle-clawed wonder Velociraptor. Andrews was not the only explorer combing the desert, however. At around the same time, Swedish explorer Sven Hedin was recovering unprecedented fossils from the southern half of the Gobi in Inner Mongolia, a region that is now part of China.
In the intervening years, scientists searching near Hedin’s sites have uncovered dinosaur egg nests with brooding parents and sickle-clawed raptors that rival the best discoveries in Outer... [continues]
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