This little fellow was
discovered in 1994. Remains
include 13 presacrals, 5 sacrals, 24 caudals in order, pelvis, and
partial hindlimbs. It was illustrated in Sloan (1999) and described
briefly by Barsbold et al. (2000) before its official publication.
The species was originally called "Nomingia brevicaudia", but
the name was was changed to Nomingia gobiensis shortly before
publication. Unfused sutures between presacral neural arches and
centra indicate that it was not yet mature. This was an extremely
important discovery as Nomingia is the first classic dinosaur known to have
possessed a pygostyle, a bone long considered unique to birds.
(See Discussions & Debates)
This little dinosaur was just about ready to fly! Well, it was at least
on its way to becoming a bird. Nomingia is a good example of
the term "missing link". For many years scientists have argued about
the theory that dinosaurs evolved into birds. While we know that some
dinosaurs had feathers and some, like
Archaeopteryx, could probably fly, no one had really found a
dinosaur that was in the process of changing into a bird. Nomingia
wasn't really ready to fly, but this dinosaur definitely was
developing some of the features of modern birds. The most important
was a short tail that ended in what is called a pygostyle. This is the
type of bone that birds have so their tail feathers can attach to
their bodies. It lets them steer while flying.
Nomingia exhibited many characteristics of the typical
oviraptoroid. It had a beak, long arms with long claws, and long legs.
Some scientists note that, despite the move toward bird-like
characteristics, members of this family are not thought to have become