Compsognathus was once thought to have been the smallest dinosaur. It has now been beaten by dinosaurs such as Microraptor and Parvicursor.

 

Compsognathus was about the size of a goose, but its sharp teeth and pointed claws would have made it a deadly predator.

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Compsognathus

"Elegant jaw"

DinosauriaTheropodaCompsognathidae

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. 

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When?

Compsognathus lived during the Late Jurassic.

Extinct for about: 00,000,000,000 Days00 Hours00 Min00 Sec

How old are you?
00,00,00.00 of your lifetimes have passed since their extinction.
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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!

Lagoons

Lagoons

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Where?

Location

  • Bavaria, Germany
  • Canjuers, France
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What We Heard About Their Hearing

Human Ear

We haven't heard much about Compsognathus' hearing.

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What Big Teeth You Have

Dinosaur Tooth

Compsognathus had small, sharp teeth for catching small lizards. 

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Nose Knowledge

Human Nose

We don't know much about Compsognathus' sense of smell.

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The Poop Scoop

Dinosaur Poop

We haven't found any poop, but one fossil Compsognathus was found with a lizard in its guts.

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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.

From The Expert

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. 

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Sizing it Up

HeightLengthWeight

Compare to:

0.7m / 2.3ft


Compsognathus was just a little taller than Velociraptor.

1 human
1 human
0.7 m / 2.3 ft

0.4

Number of people head-to-toe to reach the top of Compsognathus. (average human height 1.76 m / 5.7 ft)

Compare to:

0.7m / 2.13ft


Troodon was over 3.5 times longer than Compsognathus.

1 human
1 human
0.7 m / 2.13 ft

0.38

Number of people side by side touching finger tips to match this length (average arm span 1.7 m / 5.58 ft ).

Compare to:

4.08kg / 9.0lbs


Troodon was more than ten times heavier than Compsognathus.

compsognathus weight
car
x0.06

Number of people weighing 70.31 kg / 155 lbs needed to match the weight of Compsognathus.

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Dino On The Go!

Compsognathus had hollow bones, a long neck and tail, and strong bird-like hind limbs. It has one of the fastest estimated speeds of any dinosaur. 

64kph / 39.77mph

  • Horse 52 kph / 32.3 mph
  • Compsognathus64 kph / 39.77 mph
  • Cheetah 120.7 kph / 75 mph

22.5kph / 14mph

The average human sprint speed.

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Family Album

Family Album

Compsognathus is a member of the theropod subgroup Compsognathidae, which includes several species of small, agile predators. Other Compsognathidae included Sinosauropteryx and Juravenator.

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Vision

Compsognathus Vision

This dinosaur's eye sockets were exceptionally large. It would have needed binocular vision for hunting small, agile lizards and mammals.

Compsognathus Vision.

Human Vision

The human field of view is roughly 180 degrees.

Human Field of View
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The Skinny On Their Skin

Compsognathus

Compsognathus might have had feathers.

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What's In The Nest?

Compsognathus Egg

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.

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Headlines

compsognathus brain size

Compsognathus had a small head and, based on its closest relatives, a relatively large brain, making it one of the more intelligent dinosaurs.

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Quite The Bite

Compsognathus had a slender jaw - perfect for eating small vertebrates and, possibly, insects.

Statistics

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Good Eatin'

Plant Icon

Compsognathus had solid claws with three digits for grasping its quick prey. It hunted lizards like Bavariasaurus, which it would have ingested whole!

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Parental Guidance

Compsognathus Parent and Child

Based on their closest relatives, it is highly likely that Compsognathus brooded its nest of eggs and set apart at least some of its time to bring up its offspring.

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True Colours

Color Wheel

Palaeontologists believe that Compsognathus would have had feathers, because its closest relatives had them. If this is true, Compsognathus may have been quite colourful.