The Compsognathus was one of the first theropod dinosaurs to be described in detail. It lived in unique surroundings from where no other dinosaur fossils have been recovered.
The name Compsognathus is composed of two words. 'Compso' is derived from the Greek word 'kompsos' which means 'sophisticated' or 'graceful'. The word 'gnathos' also has Greek origins and translates to 'snout' or 'jaw' in English.
Compsognathus is a small dinosaur that lived about 150 million years ago during the late Jurassic Period.
Compsognathus was about 4 feet long, 10 inches tall at the hips and weighed approximately 7 pounds. The neck of the Compsognathus was long and flexible. Its eyes were large and wider apart. The tail of the Compsognathus was whip-like which helped it to balance itself while running.
Although it is small, many paleontologists believe that this dinosaur was pretty fast and could run at speeds around 40 miles per hour, it runs on its two feet.
Compsognathus was a carnivore. Because of its small size, it probably preyed on other small dinosaurs, insects, and lizards. Its bite injects a venom that causes numbness and weakness, a trait that the animal uses to bring down larger prey. These features of the head and legs show that the Compsognathus was a proficient hunter.
An interesting fact is that when the first skeleton of Compsognathus was found, it only had two fingers on each hand so paleontologists believed that is what this dinosaur had. However, when the second fossil was found in France, it was clearly evident that this dinosaur had three fingers on each hand instead of two. Both these fossils had near-complete skeletons.
Looking at its fossil, Compsognathus was presumed to the size of a pigeon or a chicken. It was considered to be the smallest known dinosaur for a very long time. After the excavation of the French remains, it was determined that the Compsognathus was larger than first assumed.