Dinosaur Death Trap: Gobi Desert Fossils Reveal How Dinosaurs Lived

On a trip to the Gobi Desert, a team of fossil hunters unearths a death scene that reveals new clues about how dinosaurs lived
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Mike Hettwer

"Another skeleton with a perfect skull!” I shouted to the team, all of whom were face down on the quarry floor exposing other skeletons. In the years I had spent as a paleontologist, never had I seen anything like this. Our team of fossil hunters had been prospecting for only 15 days in the Gobi Desert of Inner Mongolia, but already we had uncovered a veritable graveyard of intact fossils.

Over the next few weeks we would apply chisel, pickax and bulldozer to the site, digging up more than a dozen examples of an ostrichlike dinosaur that was to become one of the most well known in the dinosaur world. But the story would soon grow far richer than a simple body count of fossil bones, as intact and well preserved as they might be. This group of individuals would reveal how these dinosaurs interacted with one another, how their society was built, as well as the circumstances surrounding their gruesome and untimely deaths. We were just beginning to uncover the first clues of this 90-million-year-old murder mystery. Little did I know that what we were about to learn would end up making this the richest site for a single dinosaur species I had ever encountered.

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