Corythoraptor means "crested thief." It's a fitting name for a dinosaur with a high-rise dome jutting up from its skull, and, had it not lived tens of millions of years ago, it might be accused of stealing another dinosaur's look.

The new dinosaur, described by paleontologist Junchang Lü and colleagues, is known from a near-complete skeleton uncovered in Ganzhou, China. It was one of the oviraptorosaurs - the bird-like "egg thieves" - and isn't the only one to be found in this area. Corythoraptor brings the tally of oviraptorosaurs from this place and time to seven, and is primarily told apart from its fossilized neighbors by its remarkable crest.

The headgear of Corythoraptor resembles that of a cassowary, the flightless bird of Australia and New Guinea famous for its prominent headgear and terrifying talons. The resemblance is mostly superficial - the bone structure inside the oviraptorosaur's helmet differs from its modern relative - but it's hard not to see at least a passing ornamental resemblance. And, as ever, we're left to ask "Why?"

Lü and colleagues offer a few possibilities. The helmet could have helped Corythoraptor regulate its body temperature, spaces inside the crest helping to dissipate heat. Then again, perhaps the structure could have helped the dinosaur make low-frequency calls like cassowaries do today. And, of course, the crest is a visual fashion statement. We're left to scratch our own heads over what these dinosaurs were able to immediately recognize when they saw each other back in the Cretaceous.

The head of Corythoraptor. Credit: Lü et al 2017

Fossil Facts

Name: Corythoraptor jacobsi

Meaning: Corythoraptor means "crested thief", while jacobsi is in honor of paleontologist Louis Jacobs.

Age: Cretaceous, around 72 million years old.

Where in the world?: Ganzhou City, China.

What sort of organism?: An oviraptorosaurian dinosaur.

How much of the organism’s is known?: A nearly-complete skeleton.


Lü, J., Li, G., Kundrát, M., Lee, Y., Sun, Z., Kobayashi, Y., Shen, C., Teng, F., Liu, H. 2017. High diversity of the Ganzhou oviraptorid fauna increased by a new "cassowary-like" crested species. Scientific Reports. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-05016-6

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