The type species, Citipati osmolskae, was described by James M. Clark, Mark Norell, and Rinchen Barsbold in 2001. A second, as yet unnamed species may also exist. Citipati is often confused with the similar Oviraptor.
The largest Citipati were emu-sized animals and, at about 3 meters (10 ft) long, were the largest known oviraptorids until Gigantoraptor was described in 2007. Like other oviraptorids, Citipati had an unusually long neck and shortened tail, compared to most other theropods. Its skull was unusually short and highly pneumatized (riddled with openings in the bone structure), ending in a stout, toothless beak. Perhaps the most distinctive feature of Citipati was its tall crest, superficially similar to that of a modern cassowary. The crest was relatively low in the type species, C. osmolskae, with a nearly vertical front margin grading into the beak. In contrast, the crest of one referred specimen which has not yet been assigned a specific name (provisionally labeled C. sp.) was taller, with a prominent notch in the front margin, creating a squared appearance.
The name Citipati is formed from the Sanskrit words citi, meaning 'funeral pyre' and pati meaning 'lord' (चितिपति). In Tibetan Buddhist folklore, the citipati were two monks who were beheaded by a thief, while deep in a meditative trance. The citipa are often depicted as a pair of dancing skeletons surrounded by flame, hence the application of the name to the beautifully preserved oviraptorid skeletons. The type species of Citipati, C. osmolskae, was named by Clark et al., in honor of Halszka Osmólska, a noted paleontologist whose work has dealt extensively with oviraptorids and other Mongolian theropods.
The cladogram below follows an analysis by Fanti et al., 2012 Template:Clade
Confusion with OviraptorEdit
Since the type skull of Oviraptor is so poorly preserved and crushed, another oviraptorid specimen (IGM or GIN 100/42) had become the quintessential depiction of that dinosaur, even appearing in scientific papers with the label Oviraptor philoceratops. However, this distinctive-looking, tall-crested species has more features of the skull in common with Citipati than it does with Oviraptor and it may represent a second species of Citipati or possibly an entirely new genus, pending further study. Additionally, the nesting oviraptorid specimens had gained widespread attention before they were actually referred to Citipati. While usually labeled simply "oviraptorids", they have on occasion been confused with Oviraptor itself. The fact that the first Oviraptor specimen was found on a nest as well confused the matter further. As it stands, most popular illustrations of Oviraptor actually depict Citipati and the present material available for Oviraptor itself is too fragmentary to be reliably reconstructed.