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Dinosaur species

Compsognathus

CompsognathusCompsognathus Compognathus was a small, bird-like theropod, about the size of a turkey, but with a slender body, a long, thin tail and a long, flexible neck. It was a native of European islands 150 million years ago, during the Jurassic Period, at a time when Europe lay in the tropics. Its short forelimbs each ended with three clawed fingers. Compsognathus had a narrow head, tapered to the snout, with jaws full of sharp, curved teeth. 

Hunting

Compsognathus chasing dragonfliesCompsognathus chasing dragonfliesTo survive on a diet of small, quick-moving insects and lizards, Compsognathus must have had keen eyesight and been quick on its feet. Remains of lizards have been found inside Compsognathus. They had been swallowed whole.


The fossilized remains of CompsognathusThe fossilized remains of Compsognathus

Fossil discoveries

Two fossil skeletons of Compsognathus have been found: one, a juvenile, in Germany in the 1850s and the other in France in 1972. Compsognathus's skeleton closely resembled that of the earliest-known bird, Archaeopteryx, which lived in the same place at the same time—so similar, in fact, that, Archaeopteryx fossils were initially mistaken for those of Compsognathus. Recent studies have shown that other theropods, such as Deinonychus and Oviraptor, rather than Compsognathus, were more closely related to Archaeopteryx and other birds.

The skeleton of CompsognathusThe skeleton of Compsognathus

The name Compsognathus means “dainty jaw”, a reference to the fine delicate features of its skeleton.

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