Dinosaur Series: Compsognathus

The Compsognathus (Compsognathus longipes) is a small, bipedal, carnivorous, theropod dinosaur in the Compsognathidae family. Compsognathus means dainty jaw. Bipedal means that it walks on two legs.

A skeleton was discovered in 1859 in Germany, and also in the south of France.

It lived about 150 million years ago in the Tithonian age of the Late Jurassic period.


The Compsognathus had long hind (back) legs and short forelimbs (front limbs), like arms. It had two large clawed digits, and a smaller digit, on each limb. It had a long tail that it used for balance (like a kangaroo’s tail). It had a slender lower jaw with small, pointed teeth.

According to the fossilized remains in its stomach, it fed on small lizards.

It measured about the size of a turkey – about 75 centimetres (30 inches) in length. It could run very fast.

The Compsognathus is part of an exhibition called “Evolution on the Road to Enlightenment.” The palaeontologist department of the National Museum of Natural History in Paris held the exhibition of dinosaurs from December 2021 to January 2022 in conjuction with the China Light Festival. 


Location of photographs: National Museum of Natural History, Paris, France

Photographer: Martina Nicolls


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