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The monophyly of Oviraptoridae, a group of theropod dinosaurs, which share a uniquely bizarre morphology, has never been called into question due in large part to their unusual complex of characters. Despite a vivid recent history of discovery and broad public appeal the nature of their morphological diversity has not been explored extensively. Many previous descriptions of oviraptorid taxa are lost in the obscurity of hard-to-find journals, and many lack illustrations of what are now recognized as phylogenetically important characters.
The primary goal of this paper is to provide a relatively comprehensive descriptive morphology and illustrations for one member of Oviraptoridae, namely Khaan mckennai, with an emphasis on characters that can be used to establish a phylogenetic hypothesis for the taxon and group as a whole. K. mckennai is a small-bodied, crestless oviraptorid that is known from pristine material that has been collected from the Late Cretaceous sediments of Mongolia. Similar to other oviraptorids, it shares a wide number of features in common with extant birds. However, when these characters are put in the context of Oviraptorosauria, including relatively new, more basal forms like Incisivosaurus gauthieri and Caudipteryx zoui, character states such as extreme pneumatization of the skull or the reduction in the number of caudal vertebrae are found to be either homoplastic for the two groups or plesiomorphic for a more inclusive clade.