Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Superclass Tetrapoda
Class Reptilia
Subclass Diapsida
Superorder Dinosauria
Order Saurischia
Suborder Theropoda
Family Compsognathidae
Subfamily Compsognathinae
Genus Compsognathus
1st Species Compsognathus longipes
Other attributes
Time Range 150.8-148.5 mya
Location Germany, France
Name Meaning Elegant jaw
Physical Dimensions 1.3 meters long
Dietary Classification Carnivore

Compsognathus is a compsognathid theropod dinosaur from the Late Jurassic of Germany and France. It was named in 1859 by Johann Andreas Wagner. It was once known as the smallest dinosaur ever, right before smaller dinosaurs like Mononykus and Microraptor were discovered.


Compsognathus was a small, bird-like theropod with a slender body, long legs, an extremely long tail, moderately-sized arms with 3 fingers on each hand, a moderately long neck, and a small, conical head with large jaws. Most of its body (excluding its legs, its snout, and its tail) would have been covered in short, fuzz-like feathers.


Compsognathus was a predator, preying on insects, lizards, small pterosaurs, and primitive birds. Its teeth were small yet sharp, and were used to get a hold of struggling prey (along with its arms).


Despite its small size, Compsognathus was very likely the apex predator of the dry lagoons that it lived in. Thanks to its long legs, it was a very fast runner; this would have allowed it to quickly catch lizards that would hide in the undergrowth once spotted, as well as pterosaurs and birds which would fly up at the first sight of danger. As well as this, it had large eyes which allowed for good eyesight, as well as a moderately long neck which allowed for swerving its head without having to move its entire body; all these features could tell us that Compsognathus was a generally agile creature with fast reflexes. In order to hunt, Compsognathus would run up to a small animal before grabbing onto it with its jaws, holding it in place with its arms, and finishing it off with a bite; when dealing with lizards hiding in the undergrowth, it would use its moderately long neck to crane forward and grab them out of their hiding spots.

In popular cultureEdit

Compsognathus was first introduced to the public in the 1997 science fiction movie The Lost World: Jurassic Park, where it is depicted as a vicious pack hunter that swarms its prey (usually unlucky humans) in large groups like piranhas; as well as this, like any other theropod in the film, it is depicted with scaly skin. Since then, this depiction has been perpetuated in every major piece of media containing Compsognathus.

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