STL Science Center

STL Science Center

22 November 2013

So Small I Missed It All This Time

I've seen this before, but I cannot make out the illustrator's name.
"The compys didn't look dangerous at first sight. They were the size of a hen and walked nervously like a hen. But he (John Hammond) knew that they were venomous. Their bites delivered a slow-acting poison that they used to kill wounded animals." —Jurassic Park (novel)

Granted the above quote is in reference to the novel's Procompsognathus denizens and we are covering their descendant, Compsognathus, it is still a wonderful little quote from the novel about a somewhat understated lineage of dinosaurs. Both Procompsognathus and Compsognathus were small theropod dinosaurs with "elegant jaws" (the meaning of Compsognathus). Compsognathus consists of a single species, C. longipes, though a now synonymous species was once purported to exist as well (C. corallestris). The originally described size was slightly smaller than the full grown adult size of just over a meter or about 3.3ft. The reason for this is that a juvenile specimen was initially described as an adult. Regardless, at approximately a meter long and between 1.8 and 7.7lb (0.83 and 3.5kg) Compsognathus was the smallest non-avian dinosaur known for many years. An obligate biped, Compsognathus was quite gracile and agile, able, more than likely, to chase down many smaller prey items like large insects and small mammals and lizards. Though often depicted (in Jurassic Park related media primarily) as pack hunters, no evidence of this behavior exists that has been documented. Feather coverings, though not depicted often, may have been present on living members of the species, as they are closely related to known feathered dinosaurs such as Sinosauropteryx and Sinocalliopteryx.

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