Compsognathus

OK, yet another life reconstruction from the Oxford museum, but this is, I think, probably the best of the lot. It’s a superb model of Compsoganthus, complete and life size. There is still a bit of a perception that all dinosaurs were massive (and obviously the general public like massive dinosaurs – not too many would necessarily be interested in an exhibit of ‘the smallest dinosaurs ever!”. This then does a great job of dialing back the scale and showing what a small dinosaur would look like and obviously contrasts well with the nearby model of Archaeopteryx which is of similar size and also from the Solnhofen of Bavaria but obviously rather more bird-like.

12 Responses to “Compsognathus”


  1. 1 Bee 09/11/2010 at 9:55 am

    I would want to see an exhibit of the smallest dinosaurs ever! That would be the cutest thing…

    • 2 David Hone 09/11/2010 at 11:19 am

      I’d love to see it. It would be great to show off the variation out there and stress that not all dinosaurs, or dinosaur fossils, were giants.

  2. 3 David 09/11/2010 at 1:33 pm

    Agreed. I think kids especially would get a kick out of seeing a bunch dinosaurs no larger than the family pet… and it would be a great way to show them that they’re already familiar with the smallest theropods of all…

  3. 4 Horridus 09/11/2010 at 4:38 pm

    I somehow missed this when I visited the OUMNH. Am still kicking myself…

  4. 5 Victor Babbitt 10/11/2010 at 3:08 am

    Great to show that dinosaurs were dominant among land animals in virtually all environments, large and small.

  5. 6 Mark Robinson 11/11/2010 at 6:22 am

    I would also be interested in a collection of the smaller dinos. You could certainly fit more genera into the same space. There must be whole ecologies of turkey-sized beasties that we’re missing out on because of the biases in the palaeontological record.

    I tend to think of Compsy as having proto- (or just simple) feathers. However, given that nothing to indicate this was preserved with either specimen, and that similar sediments do show this for Archaeopteryx, I wonder whether it may not have had any. I guess, with it not being arboreal and living in a hot climate next to a large body of water, the two most-obvious benefits of feathers are pretty much negated. Given that feathers require resources to produce and maintain, whilst also providing a comfy environment for parasites, perhaps they’re better off without them?

  6. 7 David Hone 11/11/2010 at 8:57 am

    The thing you are missing is that the Solnhofen Compsognathus at least is not from the same beds as the Archaeopteryxes and most of the pterosaurs so the preservation is rather different. This alone may account for the absences, whereas Juravenator is form the same beds and has something preserved there.

    • 8 Mark Robinson 12/11/2010 at 4:17 am

      Thanks, Dave. So, as life-like as the Oxford Museum’s reconstruction looks, it should perhaps, after all, depict some downy feathers at least in patches (given that Sinosauropteryx and Sinocalliopteryx have them)?

      • 9 David Hone 12/11/2010 at 8:15 am

        Well it probably should, but since Juravebator does have scales and the model is, I think, quite old, it’s easily forgiven.

  7. 10 chris y 12/11/2010 at 5:20 pm

    Where are its feathers!? I know they’re not preserved, but surely it would have had some kind of at least proto-feathers.

    • 11 David Hone 12/11/2010 at 5:30 pm

      Yes, but as I say in the reply to the comment immediately above this one answering a near identical point, we do know that other compsognathids had extensive scales and this model was probably made before feathers were known in the clade so this model is not necessarily inaccurate anyway and even if it is, it’s hardly fair to judge an old model on new information.


  1. 1 Probable vs Plausible « Dave Hone's Archosaur Musings Trackback on 01/12/2010 at 8:32 am
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