Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Superclass Tetrapoda
Class Reptilia
Subclass Diapsida
Superorder Dinosauria
Order Saurischia
Suborder Theropoda
Family  ???
Genus Ornitholestes
1st Species Ornitholestes hermanni
Other attributes
Time Range 154-153 mya
Location United States of America
Name Meaning Bird robber
Physical Dimensions 2 meters long
Dietary Classification Carnivore

Ornitholestes is a theropod dinosaur from the Late Jurassic of the United States of America. It was named in 1903 by Henry Fairfield Osborn. It was one of the smaller Jurassic theropods in the Western United States, as well as the subject of much speculation put forth by many scientists.


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


Ornitholestes was a predator, preying on mammals, lizards, small pterosaurs, small ornithischians, and smaller theropods. Its teeth had knife-like serrations from front to back, and were used to cut into the hides of large prey.


In contrast to the large carnivorous juggernauts (such as Ceratosaurus, Allosaurus, and Torvosaurus) that populated the Jurassic plains, Ornitholestes was smaller, more lightweight, and better adapted to hunting smaller prey. Its relatively small head wouldn't have harbored powerful jaws; however, it had long, flexible arms with clawed fingers used for catching and getting a hold of prey. In order to hunt, Ornitholestes would run up to a small animal before grabbing onto it with its arms and finishing it off with a bite. This hunting method led people to believe that it was able to hunt Archaeopteryx and other primitive birds; however, while hunting primitive birds is suitable for Ornitholestes, it lived in North America (as opposed to Archaeopteryx' home in Europe), and it went extinct 3 million years before Archaeopteryx evolved. 

In popular cultureEdit

Due to documentaries and books focusing on prehistoric animals, Ornitholestes has seen a boost in popularity, and it has since been a relatively common sight in other pieces of media such as murals (in addition to the aforementioned books and documentaries; in the media, it is usually shown seizing primitive birds like Archaeopteryx in its claws, and depicted with scaly skin and a nasal horn similar to that of Ceratosaurus (a now-outdated feature that came from a misinterpretation of a badly-crushed snout). So far, its biggest public appearance was in the 2nd episode of the 1999 documentary Walking with Dinosaurs, where it is shown as the first threat faced by the Diplodocus sauropodlets; an interesting thing to note is that it was depicted with the aforementioned nasal horn; as well as this, it was the most feathered non-avian theropod in the documentary.

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