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Compsognathus

'Elegant jaw'

WWD

Compsognathus was a small, bird-like dinosaur with a delicate, long skull and a tapered snout. Its skinny body was perfect for life on the run.

They call it home

In the Late Jurassic, this area of Europe was an archipelago in the Tethys Sea. Compsognathus would have lived alongside Archaeopteryx and Pterodactylus around lagoons situated between beaches and coral reefs. A tropical paradise!

What big teeth you have

What big teeth you have

Compsognathus had small, sharp teeth for catching small lizards.

The most fantastic find

The most fantastic find

Compsognathus was first discovered in 1859 in Bavaria, Germany, by Joseph Oberndorfer. Inside the ribcage of the fossil was a lizard known as Bavariasaurus. The lizard was first thought to be an embryo, but in fact it was this Compsognathus' prehistoric lunch. Direct evidence of predation in the fossil record is extremely rare and this gives us a unique insight into this dinosaur's hunting behaviours.

Compsognathus features

Compsognathus features Height: 0.7m (2.3ft)
Length: 0.7m (2.13ft)
Weight: 4.08kg (9.0lbs)
Top speed: 64kph (39.77mph)
Vision: This dinosaur's eye sockets were exceptionally large. It would have needed binocular vision for hunting small, agile lizards and mammals.
Skin: Compsognathus might have had feathers.
Brain: Compsognathus had a small head and, based on its closest relatives, a relatively large brain, making it one of the more intelligent dinosaurs.
Prey: Compsognathus had solid claws with three digits for grasping its quick prey. It hunted lizards like Bavariasaurus, which it would have ingested whole.
Bite: Compsognathus had a slender jaw – perfect for eating small vertebrates and, possibly, insects.
Nest: Compsognathus would have laid eggs in a nest like other dinosaurs. If they did possess feathers, as palaeontologists suspect, they would have brooded their eggs, just like a bird.

Compsognathus facts and theories

Compsognathus facts and theories

  1. Compsognathus was once thought to have been the smallest dinosaur. It has now been beaten by dinosaurs such as Microraptor and Parvicursor.
  2. Compsognathus was about the size of a goose, but its sharp teeth and pointed claws would have made it a deadly predator.
  3. Compsognathus is found in the same rock units as the oldest known bird, Archaeopteryx. The similarity of their skeletons led early scientists like Thomas Henry Huxley to suggest that birds evolved from dinosaurs.