Dinosaurs > Compsognathus

Compsognathus (“elegant jaw”) is a genus of small, bipedal, carnivorous theropod dinosaurs. Members of its single species Compsognathus longipes could grow to the size of a turkey. They lived about 150 million years ago, the Tithonian age of the late Jurassic period, in what is now Europe. Paleontologists have found two well-preserved fossils, one in Germany in the 1850s and the second in France more than a century later. Today, C. longipes is the only recognized species, although the larger specimen discovered in France in the 1970s was once thought to belong to a separate species and named C. corallestris.

Many presentations still describe Compsognathus as “chicken-sized” dinosaurs because of the small size of the German specimen, which is now believed to be a juvenile. Compsognathus longipes is one of the few dinosaur species for which diet is known with certainty: the remains of small, agile lizards are preserved in the bellies of both specimens.

Although not recognized as such at the time of its discovery, Compsognathus is the first theropod dinosaur known from a reasonably complete fossil skeleton. Until the 1990s, it was the smallest known non-avialan dinosaur; earlier it was the closest supposed relative of the early bird Archaeopteryx.

For decades, Compsognathus were famed as the smallest dinosaurs known; the first specimen collected was around 1 m (3.3 ft) in length. However, dinosaurs discovered later, such as Caenagnathasia, Microraptor and Parvicursor, were even smaller. The largest Compsognathus specimen is estimated to have weighed somewhere between 0.83 and 3.5 kg (between 1.8 and 7.7 lb).

Compsognathus were small, bipedal animals with long hind legs and longer tails, which they used for balance during locomotion. The forelimbs were smaller than the hindlimbs and featured three digits equipped with solid claws suited for grasping prey. Their delicate skulls were narrow and long, with tapered snouts. The skull had five pairs of fenestrae (skull openings), the largest of which was for the orbit (eye socket). The eyes were large in proportion to the rest of the skull.


Clade: Dinosauria
Suborder: Theropoda
Family: Compsognathidae

Size: 0.89-1.25 m (3-4 ft) long
26 cm (10 in) tall

Weight: 0.83-3.5 kg (2-8 lbs)

When: Jurassic Period
150 million years ago

Where: France and Germany

Diet: Carnivore

The lower jaw was slender and had no mandibular fenestra, a hole in the side of the lower jawbone commonly seen in archosaurs. The teeth were small but sharp, suited for its diet of small vertebrates and possibly other small animals, such as insects. Its frontmost teeth (those on the premaxilla) were unserrated, unlike those further back in the jaw which were flattened and more strongly recurved. Scientists have used these dental characteristics to identify Compsognathus and its closest relatives.

Source: Wikipedia