Shuvuuia deserti.

(from the forthcoming "A Field Guide of Dinosaurs" by Henry Gee and Luis V. Rey)
Acrylics and inks on cardboard.

Shuvuuia deserti

Found in Mongolia's Gobi desert, the strange Shuvuuia (an alvarezsaurid like Mononykus) has been the source of debate for a long time. Can alvarezsaurids be formally classified as "Aves"? Are they just dinobirds(redundant as it sounds)? Or are they, as Paul Sereno proposes in "New Perspectives on the Origin and Early Evolution of Birds. Ostrom Symposium", modified ornithomimids? Until recently alvarezsaurids were reconstructed with smaller heads. This reconstruction is based on the latest Paul Sereno's paper where he shows an incredibly detailed and complete head that actually is bigger than thought before. Mary Schweitzer has made an important study of the "dino fuzz" fossilised integument found with the specimen and arrived to the conclusion that the main chemical component is Beta-Keratin: Important demonstration that "dino fuzz" is in reality feathers. The forelimbs have been a double source of puzzlement: Extremely short and stout with just one big first claw and the atrophied remnants of the other two digits: They must have had a very specific function. Nick Longrich did a presentation at the last two Society of Vertebrate Paleontology meetings on Shuvuuia and the closely related Mononykus concluding that they could have been ant or termite feeders (as it is shown here). Termite mounds are known as far back as the Triassic, so it is a distinct possibility although we might never know for sure.

 

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