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Sinosauropteryx prima
"First Chinese Dragon Feather"
A brief fact sheet on Sinosauropteryx

A printable version


Sinosauropteryx was a theropod dinosaur covered with proto-feathers. It dated from the late Jurassic period to perhaps the early Cretaceous period, roughly 121-135 million years ago. Two specimens of the fossil have been found in 1996 in Sihetun, Liaoning Province, China, in an ancient lake bed. In the chain of creatures leading from theropod (dromaeosaurid) dinosaurs to birds, Sinosauropteryx is the earliest bird-like dinosaur. For now, the chain includes (in chronological order):
FEATHERS
Sinosauropteryx is the first dinosaur fossil ever found that showed evidence of having feathers (albeit primitive). This fossils was not a bird, however, but was a theropod dinosaur. Sinosauropteryx could not fly; its feathers were probably used for insulation, keeping the dinosaur warm.

ANATOMY
Sinosauropteryx had downy feathers along its back and sides, forming a mane-like tuft on the back of its head. It was about 4 ft (1.25 m) long with 2mm long feathers - it was bipedal, walking on two long legs. It was 11.4 inches (29 cm) tall at the hips and weighed about 5.5 pounds (2.5 kg).

The longest feather-filaments were 1.5 inches long (3.8 cm). These filaments were probably used for heat insulation and were not used for flying.

It had two short fore-limbs (arms), and many sharp teeth. It ate meat like other theropods, and probably preyed upon small animals and insects. It also had a very long tail, the longest (relative to its size) of any theropod - the tail had 64 vertebrae. This tail was probably used for balance and for making quick turns.

DIET
Sinosauropteryx was a meat-eater and is the only dinosaur that has been found with a mammal in its stomach. Only the jawbone of this unidentified mammal was found in the Sinosauropteryx gut.

FOSSILS
Sinosauropteryx was found by Chinese farmers, including Li Yin Fang, in 1996 in the dry countryside near Liaoning Province, China. This area would later yield other important bird-like dinosaur finds, including Caudipteryx, Protarchaeopteryx, and also many specimens of Confuciusornis sanctus, an early bird about 120 million years old.

Three complete skeletons of Sinosauropteryx have been found, including trace fossils of small fibers (protofeathers), stomach contents, unlaid eggs, and some internal organs.

BIRDS AND DINOSAURS
The existence of Sinosauropteryx lends credence to the theory that the birds are descended from theropod dinosaurs and not from four-legged arboreal (tree living) reptiles.

OTHER FEATHERED DINOSAURS
Two new Chinese feathered dinosaurs dating from between 145 and 125 million years ago (during the late Jurassic and early Cretaceous periods) have been found in the same area of China. These fossils, Caudipteryx zoui and the more primitive Protarchaeopteryx robusta have features which are more dinosaur-like than bird-like and are considered to be theropod dinosaurs. Their feathers were symmetrical, which indicate that they could not fly (flightless birds have symmetrical feathers while those that fly have asymmetrical ones). These finds reinforce the theory that birds are descended from dinosaurs.

CLASSIFICATION
Sinosauropteryx belonged to the:


LINKS
A brief fact sheet on Sinosauropteryx, or go to the printable version

Caudipteryx

Protarchaeopteryx

Sinosauropteryx pictures from Jeff Pollings Dinosauria.com.






Information Sheets About Dinosaurs
(and Other Prehistoric Creatures)

Just click on an animal's name to go to that information sheet. If the dinosaur you're interested in isn't here, check the Dinosaur Dictionary or the list of Dinosaur Genera. Names with an asterisk (*) were not dinosaurs.
How to write a great dinosaur report.

For dinosaur printouts, click here.

For brief dinosaur fact sheets, click here.




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