Compsognathus, who's name means "pretty jaw" is one of the smallest dinosaurs discovered so far. All the remains discovered to date indicate a size between about .7 and 1.4 meters in length, most of this being its slender tail. It probably weighed about as much as a chicken.

The first Compsognathus fossil to be found was discovered in Bavaria in the late 1850s, and was a nearly complete and very well preserved skeleton. Since this time, only two other, less complete fossils have been found. One is a nearly complete skeleton found near Nice, France, and the other consists of only a few toe bones discovered in the same area as the first.

Compsognathus appears to have been a small predator. It has long slender legs which indicate it was a fast runner, and a long, stiff tail which would have been used as a counterbalance while runnning. The feet have four toes. The skull is lightly built, with large eye openings, similar to small predators of today. The teeth are small and rather delicate, and point backward in the skull, indicating that Comsognathus's prey was likely small lizards and insects. The arms are rather short, and the hands are unusual in that there are only two clawed fingers.

Further evidence of Compsognathus's lifestyle as a swift predator are provided by its last meal. The fossilized remains of its stomach contents were discovered in the rib cage of the first skeleton found. Paleontologists discovered the remains of a small, fast running lizard called Bavarisaurus within the stomach contents. This would indicate that Compsognathus was a keen-eyed, agile predator that specialized in catching small, fast moving prey.

Judging from the known specimens, Compsagnathus lived near the end of the Jurassic period, about 140 million years ago. It was a member of the Coelurosaur family of dinosaurs.

Comp*sog"na*thus (? ), n. [NL., fr. Gr. elegant, pretty + jaw.] Zool.

A genus of Dinosauria found in the Jurassic formation, and remarkable for having several birdlike features.


© Webster 1913.

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