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Introducing Citipati

“Funeral Prye Lord”

Eymology: The name Citipati comes from the Sanskrit words citi, meaning “funeral pyre,” and pati, meaning “lord.” In Tibetan Buddhist folklore, the citipati were two monks who were beheaded by a thief, while in a deep trance.
Time: Late Cretaceous period, 75 million years ago
Range: Plains of Asia; Mongolia
Diet: Omnivore (plant and meat eater)
Height: 4–5 feet
Length: 9 feet long
Weight: 500 pounds

Interesting Facts

Feathered Fast and Flightless

Closely related to the more well-known Oviraptor, the Citipati measured about nine feet in length. It was an emu-sized dinosaur. Citipati had an unusually long neck and a shorter tail, compared to most other theropods. Its skull was short and highly pneumatizied—riddled openings in the bone structure which make it stronger and lighter. It had a toothless beak.

A flightless, fast, and agile creature, the Citipati’s jaws indicate that it ate a variety of foods including plants, small animals, and even eggs. Paleontologists think that it nipped at leaves, twigs, and fruits with the sharp edges of its jaws, and grabbed small animals with its clawed hands!

The Citipati’s eggs are approximately seven inches long, making them a few inches larger than other oviraptorid eggs. A clutch may have had up to 22 eggs. There is also evidence that some dinosaurs cared for their babies for some time after hatching.


Taxonomy/Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Dinosauria
Order: Saurischia
Family: Oviraptorosauria
Genus: Citipati
Species: C. osmolskae
Cassowary Portrait LA Zoo Credit Jamie Pham

At the Zoo: Cassowary

Like the modern cassowary—a bird related to the ostrich—one of the Citipait’s unique characteristics was its tall crest. The crest was made of bone and covered in keratin—the same material as your hair and fingernails—but its purpose is unknown.  It may have revealed the dinosaur’s age or dominance. Perhaps, like the cassowary’s crest, the helmet-like protrusion protected its head as it pushed through the brush.


Citipati’s Historic Journey

  • By the latter part of the Cretaceous period, the feathered Citipati was already well along toward the avian end of the evolutionary spectrum.
  • Citipati, is a genus of theropod dinosaur from the Late Cretaceous Period of what is now Mongolia. It is known from the Djadokhta Formation in the Gobi Desert. It is one of the best known oviraptorids thanks to a number of well- preserved fossils, some of which have been found in brooding positions on top of egg nests. These findings help solidify the link between non-avian dinosaurs and birds. It was first described by James M. Clark, Mark Norell, and Rinchen Barsbold in 2001.
  • The Late Cretaceous Period, also known as the Neocomian epoch, roughly occurred between 127 and 65 million years ago. During this time land masses continued to drift apart and the global climate became cooler and more seasonal. This was a period of great advancement for dinosaurs in terms of diversity. The end of the Cretaceous period is marked by a mass extinction event, likely cause by a large asteroid impact, increased volcanic activity, and changes in sea level, that wiped out an estimated 80 percent of all species on Earth.
  • Citipati was about nine feet in length and was the best known oviraptorids until the discovery of Gigantoraptor in 2007.

Non-Flighted Birds Today

  • Emu
  • Ostrich
  • Cassowary
  • Penguin
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