Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Superclass Tetrapoda
Class Reptilia
Subclass Diapsida
Superorder Dinosauria
Order Saurischia
Suborder Theropoda
Family Compsognathidae
Genus Sinosauropteryx
1st Species Sinosauropteryx prima
Other attributes
Time Range 124.6-122 mya
Location China
Name Meaning Chinese lizard wing
Physical Dimensions 1.1 meters
Dietary Classification Carnivore

Sinosauropteryx is a compsognathid theropod dinosaur from the Early Cretaceous of China. It was named in 1996 by Ji Qian and Ji Shu'an. It was the first confirmed feathered non-avian dinosaur to be found, and led way to a new era of discoveries like it; as well as this, it is one of the most extensively-studied non-avian theropods, even being studied to the point where we know its color.


Much like Compsognathus, Sinosauropteryx 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 some of its legs and all of its snout) would have been covered in short, fuzz-like feathers; most of its body would have been reddish brown in color, with a lighter-colored underside, a striped tail, and bandit mask-like facial markings similar to those of a raccoon.


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


Sinosauropteryx' colors give us lots of insight into how it lived. In a similar case to Psittacosaurus, Sinosauropteryx had a darker-colored (reddish brown) back and lighter-colored underside, which was useful for sneaking up on small prey or hiding from larger predators more effectively; this kind of color patterning is called countershading, and is most often found on animals that live in open habitats like grasslands and plains, a lifestyle most fitting for Sinosauropteryx. In addition to this, Sinosauropteryx bore a large area of darker-colored feathers around its eyes, similar to the "bandit mask" of a raccoon; it is clear that these facial markings were used for reducing glare and thus enhancing its vision, but, along with the theropod's striped tail, they may have been used for recognition by other members of its species. In terms of what animals it ate, a fossilized individual with stomach contents revealed that, much like the earlier Compsognathus, it was an agile hunter of lizards, small mammals, and other small, fast-moving animals that shared its open grassland habitat; as well as this, that same specimen preserved eggs in front of and above the pubis (bone that extends below the pelvis), meaning that it had two oviducts (egg-laying passageways) much like other theropods.

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