Mongolia, Late Cretaceous Period (Djadochta Formation)
I made this illustration for Earth Archives - you can read more about the strange and wonderful dinosaurs of the Gobi Desert there.
The inflatable display structure on the male Citipati is highly speculative, but not outside the realm of possibility. Modern birds like frigatebirds and prairie chickens have similar structures, but evidence for them would be difficult to recover from the fossil record.
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Citipati is an extremely well known oviraptorid, thanks to the large number of well preserved specimens known of the animal. It was about 3 meters long and about the same height as an average human, making it one of the largest oviraptors, besides Gigantoraptor. It was found in the Djadokhta Formation of Ukhaa Tolgod, in the Gobi Desert. It lived in the Campanian age of the Late Cretaceous, about 84 to 75 million years ago. It had an extremely long neck and short tail, and had a short skull with a tall crest like a modern cassowary. In fact, this oviraptor is so well known and so distinctive, that usually when an “Oviraptor” is in a dinosaur film, it’s actually based off of (or is) Citipati. Furthermore, since Oviraptor itself is so fragmented, this animal gives us a better picture of this type of dinosaur.
Four specimens of Citipati have ben found in brooding positions, covering up the nest like birds today, indicating that avian behavior was present at least in some theropod dinosaurs. The position also doesn’t make sense without feathered arms (as there would be nothing to cover the eggs with,) further providing support for feathered oviraptors. The eggs were elongated ovals, and clutches consisted of as many as 22 eggs. They were also the largest known oviraptorid eggs at 18 cm long. Some eggs have been found with preserved embryos, driving home that these eggs were being protected, rather than hunted. This animal has also been found associated with the troodontid Byronosaurus, as embryos for both have been found together; this could be due to nest raiding for food, or nest parasitism - the Byronosaurus could have laid its eggs in the Citipati nest while it was unattended.
the Citipati, or “Lords of the Cemetery” represent the eternal dance of death, and perfect awareness. They are usually depicted as a male/female pair of intertwined skeletons caught up in an ecstatic dance. The Citipati are invoked as ‘wrathful deities,’ benevolent protectors who appear as fierce beings with a demonic appearance.