Its name comes from the Greek and means “of refined or delicate jaw. In fact they form the Compsognathidae family which is composed mostly of small dinosaurs that lived in late Jurassic and early Cretaceous times in South America, China and Europe, about 150 million years ago. For a long time it was described as the height of a rooster, however it has been proven that they were larger. Because his remains have been found in excellent condition and even remains of his food have been found in his stomach, you can tell exactly what he ate, of all the other dinosaurs only have hypotheses.
The Compsognathus was a small dinosaur that walked on two long, slender legs and had a long tail that helped it maintain its balance. Their arms had three fingers with sharp claws that served to catch their prey. They also had a pointed snout that was very useful in the hunt and had the largest eyes of all the dinosaurs in proportion to their bodies, this because of the size of the eye sockets in their skulls.
The most interesting thing about the findings of the Compsognathus is that the fossils we have of them are well preserved. The first was found in Germany in 1850 and a hundred years later a second skeleton was found in France, which at first was believed to be a separate species. To these findings we must add some teeth discovered in Portugal, which is still trying to determine which genus they belong to or even if it is a nine species. It is also one of the first known dinosaurs whose entire skeleton was found. Until the last decade of the 20th century the Compsognathus was believed to be the smallest dinosaur, it was also believed to be the closest relative to primitive birds, making it a highly studied and recognized dinosaur.
It was Joseph Oberndorfer who discovered the fossils in Germany, Bavaria to be exact, in that same excavation were found remains of an Archaeopteryx that even had some impressions of feathers. Its name did not come until 1861 when its bones were studied in greater detail, at first they were not quite sure whether it was a dinosaur or not until 1896 when Othniel Marsh recognized it as a true dinosaur and even described it in depth. Other remains were discovered in 1972, this time in Nice.
As has been said before, this is the only dinosaur you are sure he was eating, precisely because traces of his food were found in his stomach. What was found were remains of a lizard in the thoracic cavity, which is why it is known that their favorite food was these small lizards. Although it was not always thought of as their food, the idea was initially that the dinosaur found was a pregnant female and so it was theorized that the small bones in the stomach were from an embryo and it was not until 1903 that this idea was discarded and the small lizard was identified as a Bavarisaurus. The Bavarisaurus were small and fast lizards that ran at high speed, according to studies could reach up to about 64 km / h which means that was one of the fastest runners of the time.
This reinforces the theory that the Compsognathus was an excellent hunter, with great speed and above all impressive acceleration power, as well as excellent vision to see these tiny lizards. As the whole Bavarisaurus was found in his stomach it is believed that he swallowed his whole prey. The interesting thing is that not only were remains of this particular lizard found in his stomach but also of other small lizards that have not yet been fully identified.
The Compsognathus is special because of its particular size, it was really small considering the gigantic dinosaurs that walked the earth at that time. Most of the bones found make us think that the Compsognathus was about one meter long, about the size of a primary school child. However, it was found that they could be much smaller. For a long time it was thought to be the smallest dinosaur until others like the Microraptor were found. But don’t let its size fool you, it was a great predator and great runner, it is believed that it weighed up to 3 kilos, nothing like the tons of his companions of the time. His teeth were thin and small, but extremely fine, the type of teeth he had were diametrically different from other dinosaurs in his family.
Where else can you find him?
Because for a long time it was the smallest dinosaur known, the Compsognathus was the perfect stereotype to be in most dinosaur-related movies and video games. So you can find it in most of the films in Jurassic Park and also in the video game Dino Crisis. He is not usually presented as the main character, but he is always present in all films.