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Friday, July 6, 2007

Compsognathus

Close up of Compsognathus replica's head.
Compsognathus (meaning 'elegant jaw') was a small, bipedal, carnivoroustheropod dinosaur. The animal was the size of a chicken and lived around 150 million years ago, during the early Tithonian stage of the late JurassicPeriod, in what is now Europe. Paleontologists have found two well-preserved fossils, one in Germany in the 1850s and the second in France more than a century later. Compsognathus is one of the few dinosaurs for which the diet is known with certainty: the remains of small, agile lizards are preserved in the bellies of both specimens. Teeth discovered in Portugal may be further fossil remains of the genus. Although not recognized as such at the time of its discovery, Compsognathus is the first dinosaur known from a reasonably complete skeleton. Today, C. longipes is the only recognized species, although the larger specimen discovered in France in the 1970s was once thought to belong to a separate species, C. corallestris. Until the 1980s and 1990s, Compsognathus was the smallest known dinosaur and the closest supposed relative of the early bird Archaeopteryx. Thus, the genus is one of the few dinosaur genera to be well known outside of paleontological circles

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