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What an Odd Thing

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Description

Described from a "road kill" specimen, the material was originally described as a specimen not unlike Archaeopteryx, perhaps in allusion to the peculiar arrangement of the arms in a "unfolded wing" position, but also to early clear presence of distinct feathers. It is now known to not be a bird, but an oviraptorosaur close to the base of the Oviraptorosauria.

Virtually all of the skeleton is flattened, and in some cases, fractured so that the details are impossible to tell. In this case, this has to do with imperfect splitting of the slab into part and counterpart. As the fossil was brought after discovery and splitting to primary author Ji Shu'an at the National Geological Museum of China, Beijing, the other part of the slab is unknown, and thus this obscures details missing in the fossil, from ribs, unpreserved pelvis portions, vertebrae, and the skull itself.

However, details of the skull are known in some detail (white), while others show extensive loss of information (grey). What is known helps demonstrate that the anterior jaws bore large teeth, which are extensively reduced posteriorly into rounded nubbins. These features have prompted paleontologist Phil Senter to refer the "rabbit-toothed" Incisivosaurus gauthieri to Protarchaeopteryx, although as a second species. The teeth are particularly different in the form of the large anterior teeth, which are largest in the front in Incisivosaurus, but are larger in the rear of the premaxilla in Protarchaeopteryx, but we are dealing with only two specimens (although they are close to the same size) from the same Formation (the upper Sihetun beds of the Yixian Formation for this species are noted for "roadkill" flat specimens, but the lower Lujiatun beds are ash/tuff fillings that preserve specimens in three-dimensions).
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EmperorDinobot's avatar
It looks very basal. It's got the coelurosaurian like pelvis, etc. I keep wondering why some workers had it under archaeopterygidae a number of years ago...