Feathered Dinosaur Pictures and Profiles

01
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Meet the Feathered Dinosaurs of the Mesozoic Era

sinosauropteryx
Sinosauropteryx. Wikimedia Commons

Feathered dinosaurs (sometimes referred to as "dino-birds") were an important intermediate stage between the small meat-eating theropods of the Jurassic and Triassic periods and the birds we all know and love today. On the following slides, you'll find pictures and detailed profiles of 75 feathered dinosaurs, ranging from A (Albertonykus) to Z (Zuolong).

02
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Albertonykus

albertonykus
Albertonykus. Wikimedia Commons

Name:

Albertonykus (Greek for "Alberta claw"); pronounced al-BERT-oh-NYE-cuss

Habitat:

Woodlands of North America

Historical Period:

Late Cretaceous (70 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About 2 1/2 feet long and a few pounds

Diet:

Insects

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Small size; claws on hands; probably feathers

 

As is the case with many dinosaurs, the scattered fossils of Albertonykus (which were unearthed in a Canadian quarry along with numerous Albertosaurus specimens) languished in museum drawers for years before professionals got around to classifying them. It was only in 2008 that Albertonykus was "diagnosed" as a small feathered dinosaur closely related to the South American Alvarezsaurus, and therefore a member of that breed of small theropods known as alvarezsaurs. Judging by its clawed hands and the odd shape of its jaws, Albertonykus seems to have made its living by raiding termite mounds and eating their unfortunate inhabitants.

03
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Alvarezsaurus

alvarezsaurus
Alvarezsaurus. Wikimedia Commons

Name:

Alvarezsaurus (Greek for "Alvarez's lizard"); pronounced al-vah-rez-SORE-us

Habitat:

Woodlands of South America

Historical Period:

Late Cretaceous (85 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About 6 feet long and 30-40 pounds

Diet:

Probably insects

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Long legs and tail; probably feathers

 

As is often the case in the dinosaur business, even though Alverexsaurus has bestowed its name on an important family of bird-like dinosaurs (the "alvarezsaurids"), this genus itself isn't very well know. Judging by its fragmentary fossil remains, Alvarezsaurus appears to have been a fast, agile runner, and it probably subsisted on insects rather than other dinosaurs. Much better known and understood are two of its closest relatives, Shuvuuia and Mononykus, the former of which is considered by some to have been more bird than dinosaur.

By the way, it's widely believed that Alvarezsaurus was named in honor of the famous paleontologist Luis Alvarez (who helped prove that dinosaurs were rendered extinct by a meteor impact 65 million years ago), but in fact it was named (by another famous paleontologist, Jose F. Bonaparte) after the historian Don Gregorio Alvarez.

04
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Anchiornis

Anchiornis
Anchiornis. Nobu Tamura

Name:

Anchiornis (Greek for "almost bird"); pronounced ANN-kee-OR-niss

Habitat:

Woodlands of Asia

Historical Period:

Late Jurassic (155 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About one foot long and a few ounces

Diet:

Probably insects

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Small size; feathers on front and back limbs

 

The small, feathered "dino-birds" dug up in China's Liaoning fossil beds have proved an endless source of confusio. The latest genus to ruffle the feathers of paleontologists is Anchiornis, a tiny dinosaur (not a bird) with unusually long front arms and feathers on its front limbs, hind limbs, and feet. Despite its similarity to Microraptor--another four-winged dino-bird--Anchiornis is believed to have been a troodont dinosaur, and thus a close relative of the much bigger Troodon. Like other feathered dinosaurs of its kind, Anchiornis may have represented an intermediate stage between dinosaurs and modern birds, though it may also have occupied a side branch of avian evolution destined to die out with the dinosaurs.

Recently, a team of scientists analyzed the fossilized melanosomes (pigment cells) of a specimen of Anchiornis, resulting in what may be the first full-color depiction of an extinct dinosaur. It turns out that this dino-bird had an orange, mohawk-like crest of feathers on its head, alternating white- and black-striped feathers running along the width of its wings, and black and red "freckles" spotting its beaked face. This has provided considerable grist for paleo-illustrators, who now have no excuse for depicting Anchiornis with scaly, reptilian skin!

05
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Anzu

anzu
Anzu (Mark Klingler).

Name

Anzu (after a demon in Mesopotamian mythology); pronounced AHN-zoo

Habitat

Plains of North America

Historical Period

Late Cretaceous (70-65 million years ago)

Size and Weight

About 11 feet long and 500 pounds

Diet

Probably omnivorous

Distinguishing Characteristics

Bipedal posture; feathers; crest on head

 

As a rule, oviraptors--bipedal, feathered dinosaurs typified by (you guessed it) Oviraptor--are much better attested in eastern Asia than they are in North America. That's what makes Anzu so important: this Oviraptor-like theropod was recently unearthed in the Dakotas, in the same late Cretaceous sediments that have yielded numerous specimens of Tyrannosaurus Rex and Triceratops. Not only is Anzu the first undisputed oviraptor to be discovered in North America, but it's also the biggest, tipping the scales at about 500 pounds (which puts it in ornithomimid, or "bird-mimic," territory). Still, one shouldn't be too surprised: most of the dinosaurs of Eurasia had their counterparts in North America, since these land masses were intermittently in close contact during the Mesozoic Era.

06
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Aorun

aorun
Aorun. Wikimedia Commons

Name:

Aorun (after a Chinese deity); pronounced AY-oh-run

Habitat:

Woodlands of Asia

Historical Period:

Late Jurassic (160 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About two feet long and a few pounds

Diet:

Small lizards and mammals

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Small size; slender build

 

There were a bewildering number of small, probably feathered theropods roaming late Jurassic Asia, many of them closely related to the North American Coelurus (and thus referred to as "coelurosaurian" dinosaurs). Discovered in 2006, but only formally announced in 2013, Aorun was a fairly typical early theropod, albeit with slight anatomical differences that distinguished it from fellow meat-eaters like Guanlong and Sinraptor. It's as yet unknown whether or not Aorun was covered with feathers, or how large the full-grown adults were (the "type specimen" is of a year-old juvenile).

07
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Archaeopteryx

archaeopteryx
Archaeopteryx. Alain Beneteau

A classic feathered dinosaur of the late Jurassic period, Archaeopteryx was discovered only a couple of years after the publication of The Origin of Species, and was the first widely recognized "transitional form" in the fossil record. See 10 Facts About Archaeopteryx

08
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Aristosuchus

aristosuchus
Aristosuchus (Nobu Tamura).

Name:

Aristosuchus (Greek for "noble crocodile"); pronounced AH-riss-toe-SOO-kuss

Habitat:

Woodlands of western Europe

Historical Period:

Early Cretaceous (125 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About six feet long and 50 pounds

Diet:

Meat

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Small size; bipedal posture

 

Despite the familiar "suchus" (Greek for "crocodile") in the latter part of its name, Aristosuchus was a full-fledged dinosaur, although one that remains poorly understood. This smallish, western European theropod seems to have been closely related to both the North American Compsognathus and the South American Mirischia; it was initially classified as a species of Poekilopleuron by the famous paleontologist Richard Owen, way back in 1876, until Harry Seeley assigned it to its own genus a few years later. As for the "noble" part of its name, there's no indication that Aristosuchus was more refined than the other meat-eaters of the early Cretaceous period!

09
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Avimimus

avimimus
Avimimus. Wikimedia Commons

Name:

Avimimus (Greek for "bird mimic"); pronounced AV-ih-MIME-us

Habitat:

Plains of central Asia

Historical Period:

Late Cretaceous (75-70 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About five feet long and 25 pounds

Diet:

Meat and insects

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Bird-like wings; teeth in upper jaw

 

Despite the similarity of their names, the "bird-mimic" Avimimus was very different from the "bird-mimic" Ornithomimus. The latter was a large, speedy, ostrich-like dinosaur carrying a fair amount of momentum and heft, while the former was a small "dino-bird" of central Asia, notable for its numerous feathers, plumed tail, and bird-like feet. What places Avimimus firmly in the dinosaur category is the primitive teeth in its upper jaw, as well as its similarities to other, less bird-like oviraptors of the Cretaceous period (including the poster genus for the group, Oviraptor).

10
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Bonapartenykus

bonapartenykus
Bonapartenykus. Gabriel Lio

The name Bonapartenykus isn't a reference to the French dictator Napoleon Bonaparte, but rather the famous Argentinean paleontologist Jose F. Bonaparte, who has named many feathered dinosaurs over the past few decades. See an in-depth profile of Bonapartenykus

11
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Borogovia

borogovia
Borogovia. Julio Lacerda

Name:

Borogovia (after the borogoves in Lewis Carroll's poem Jabberwocky); pronounced BORE-oh-GO-vee-ah

Habitat:

Plains of central Asia

Historical Period:

Late Cretaceous (70-65 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About six feet long and 25 pounds

Diet:

Meat

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Small size; bipedal posture; probably feathers

 

Borogovia is one of those obscure dinosaurs that's more notable for its name than for any other specific feature. This small, probably feathered theropod of late Cretaceous Asia, which appears to have been closely related to the much more famous Troodon, was christened after the borogoves in Lewis Carroll's nonsense poem Jabberwocky ("all mimsy were the borogoves...") Since Borogovia was "diagnosed" based on a single fossilized limb, it's possible that it may eventually be reassigned as a species (or individual) of a different dinosaur genus.

12
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Byronosaurus

byronosaurus
Byronosaurus. Wikimedia Commons

Name:

Byronosaurus (Greek for "Byron's lizard"); pronounced BUY-ron-oh-SORE-us

Habitat:

Deserts of central Asia

Historical Period:

Late Cretaceous (85-80 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About 5-6 feet long and 10-20 pounds

Diet:

Meat

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Moderate size; long snout with needle-like teeth

 

During the late Cretaceous period, central Asia was a hotbed of small, feathered theropod dinosaurs, including raptors and birdlike "troodonts." A close relative of Troodon, Byronosaurus stood out from the pack thanks to its odd, unserrated, needle-shaped teeth, which were very similar to those of proto-birds like Archaeopteryx (which lived tens of millions of years before). The shape of these teeth, and Byronosaurus' long snout, are a hint that this dinosaur subsisted mostly on Mesozoic mammals and prehistoric birds, though it may occasionally have gobbled up one of its fellow theropods. (Oddly enough, paleontologists have discovered the skulls of two Byronosaurus individuals inside the nest of an Oviraptor-like dinosaur; whether Byronosaurus was preying on the eggs, or was itself being preyed on by the other theropod, remains a mystery.)

13
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Caudipteryx

caudipteryx
Caudipteryx. American Museum of Natural History

Caudipteryx not only had feathers, but a beak and distinctly avian feet; one school of thought suggests that it might actually have been a flightless bird that "de-evolved" from its flying ancestors, rather than a true dinosaur. See an in-depth profile of Caudipteryx

14
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Ceratonykus

ceratonykus
Ceratonykus. Nobu Tamura

Name:

Ceratonykus (Greek for "horned claw"); pronounced seh-RAT-oh-NIKE-us

Habitat:

Deserts of central Asia

Historical Period:

Late Cretaceous (85-80 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About five feet long and 25 pounds

Diet:

Small animals

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Small size; bipedal posture; probably feathers

 

Ceratonykus is one of the latest examples of an alvarezsaur, a mysterious branch of relatively small, bird-like, theropod dinosaurs (closely related to raptors) that sported feathers, bipedal stances, and long legs with correspondingly small arms. Since it was diagnosed based on a single incomplete skeleton, relatively little is known about the central Asian Ceratonykus or its evolutionary relationship to other dinosaurs and/or birds, other than that it was a prototypical, probably feathered "dino-bird" of the late Cretaceous period.

15
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Chirostenotes

chirostenotes
Chirostenotes. Jura Park

Name:

Chirostenotes (Greek for "narrow hand"); pronounced KIE-ro-STEN-oh-tease

Habitat:

Woodlands of North America

Historical Period:

Late Cretaceous (80 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About seven feet long and 50-75 pounds

Diet:

Probably omnivorous

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Narrow, clawed fingers on hands; toothless jaws

 

Like Frankenstein's monster, Chirostenotes has been assembled out of bits and pieces, at least in terms of its nomenclature. This dinosaur's long, narrow hands were discovered in 1924, prompting its current name (Greek for "narrow hand"); the feet were found a few years later, and assigned the genus Macrophalangia (Greek for "big toes"); and its jaw was unearthed a few years after that, and given the name Caenagnathus (Greek for "recent jaw"). Only afterward was it recognized that all three parts belonged to the same dinosaur, hence the reversion to the original name.

In evolutionary terms, Chirostenotes was closely related to a similar Asian theropod, Oviraptor, demonstrating how widespread these meat-eaters were during the late Cretaceous period. As with most tiny theropods, Chirostenotes is believed to have sported feathers, and it may have represented an intermediate link between dinosaurs and birds.

16
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Citipati

citipati
Citipati. Wikimedia Commons

Name:

Citipati (after an ancient Hindu god); pronounced SIH-tee-PAH-tee

Habitat:

Plains of central Asia

Historical Period:

Late Cretaceous (75 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About nine feet long and 500 pounds

Diet:

Meat

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Crest on front of head; toothless beak

 

Closely related to another, more famous, central Asian theropod, Oviraptor, Citipati partook of the same devoted child-rearing behavior: the fossilized specimens of this emu-sized dinosaur were found sitting atop clutches of its own eggs, in poses identical to those of modern nesting birds. Clearly, by the latter part of the Cretaceous period, the feathered Citipati (along with other dino-birds) was already well along toward the avian end of the evolutionary spectrum, though it's unclear whether modern birds counted oviraptors among their direct ancestors.

17
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Conchoraptor

conchoraptor
Conchoraptor. Wikimedia Commons

Name:

Conchoraptor (Greek for "conch thief"); pronounced CON-coe-rap-tore

Habitat:

Swamps of Central Asia

Historical Period:

Late Cretaceous (70 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About five feet long and 20 pounds

Diet:

Probably omnivorous

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Small size; well-muscled jaws

 

The oviraptors--small, feathered theropods typified by, and closely related to, the well-known Oviraptor--of late Cretaceous Central Asia seem to have pursued a wide variety of prey. Judging by its squat, muscular jaws, paleontologists speculate that the five-foot-long, twenty-pound Conchoraptor made its living by cracking the shells of ancient mollusks (including conchs) and feasting on the soft internal organs within. Lacking further direct evidence, though, it's also possible that Conchoraptor fed on hard-shelled nuts, vegetation, or even (for all we know) other oviraptors.

18
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Elmisaurus

elmisaurus
Elmisaurus (Wikimedia Commons).

Name

Elmisaurus (Mongolian/Greek for "foot lizard"); pronounced ELL-mih-SORE-us

Habitat

Plains of central Asia

Historical Period

Late Cretaceous (70 million years ago)

Size and Weight

Undisclosed

Diet

Unknown; possibly omnivorous

Distinguishing Characteristics

Bipedal posture; probably feathers

 

Paleontologists are still trying to sort out the bewildering number of small, feathered theropods that prowled the deserts and plains of late Cretaceous central Asia (e.g., present-day Mongolia). Discovered in 1970, Elmisaurus was clearly a close relative of Oviraptor, though how much so is unclear since the "type fossil" consists of a hand and a foot. That didn't stop paleontologist William J. Currie from identifying a second Elmisaurus species, E. elegans, from a set of bones previously attributed to Ornithomimus; however, the weight of opinion is that this was really a species (or specimen) of Chirostenotes.

19
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Elopteryx

elopteryx
Elopteryx (Mihai Dragos).

Name

Elopteryx (Greek for "marsh wing"); pronounced eh-LOP-teh-ricks

Habitat

Woodlands of central Europe

Historical Period

Late Cretaceous (75-65 million years ago)

Size and Weight

Undisclosed

Diet

Meat

Distinguishing Characteristics

Small size; bipedal posture; probably feathers

 

Today, the one name most people associate with Transylvania is Dracula--which is somewhat unfair, since some important dinosaurs (like Telmatosaurus) have been discovered in this region of Romania. Elopteryx certainly has a Gothic provenance--its "type fossil" was discovered at some indeterminate point around the turn of the 20th century by a Romanian paleontologist, and later wound up in the British Museum of Natural History--but beyond that, very little is known about this dinosaur, which is considered a nomen dubium by most authorities. The best we can say is that Elopteryx was a feathered theropod, and it was most closely related to Troodon (though even that much is disputed!)

20
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Eosinopteryx

eosinopteryx
Eosinopteryx. Emily Willoughby

The pigeon-sized Eosinopteryx dates to the late Jurassic period, about 160 million years ago; the distribution of its feathers (including the lack of tufts on its tail) points to a basal position on the theropod dinosaur family tree. See an in-depth profile of Eosinopteryx

21
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Epidendrosaurus

epidendrosaurus
Epidendrosaurus. Wikimedia Commons

Some paleontologists believe that Epidendrosaurus, and not Archaeopteryx, was the first two-legged dinosaur that could reasonably be called a bird. It was most likely incapable of powered flight, instead fluttering gently from branch to branch. See an in-depth profile of Epidendrosaurus

22
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Epidexipteryx

epidexipteryx
Epidexipteryx. Sergey Krasovskiy

Name:

Epidexipteryx (Greek for "display feather"); pronounced EPP-ih-dex-IPP-teh-rix

Habitat:

Woodlands of Asia

Historical Period:

Late Jurassic (165-150 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About one foot long and one pound

Diet:

Probably insects

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Small size; prominent tail feathers

 

Archaeopteryx is so firmly rooted in the popular imagination as the "first bird" that any feathered dinosaur that precedes it in the fossil record is bound to cause a sensation. Witness the case of Epidexipteryx, which predated Archaeopteryx by as much as 15 million years (the sediments in which the "type fossil" was found make more precise dating impossible). The most striking feature of this tiny "dino-bird" was the spray of feathers shooting out from its tail, which clearly had an ornamental function. The rest of this creature's body was covered with much shorter, more primitive plumes that may (or may not) have represented an early stage in the evolution of true feathers.

Was Epidexipteryx a bird or a dinosaur? Most paleontologists hew to the latter theory, classifying Epidexipteryx as a small theropod dinosaur closely related to the equally tiny Scansoriopteryx (which lived at least 20 million years later, during the early Cretaceous period). However, one rogue theory proposes that not only was Epidexipteryx a true bird, but that it had "de-evolved" from flying birds that lived millions of years earlier, during the early Jurassic period. This seems unlikely, but the discovery of Epidexipteryx does raise the question of whether feathers evolved primarily for flight, or began as a strictly ornamental adaptation meant to attract to opposite sex.

23
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Gigantoraptor

gigantoraptor
Gigantoraptor. Taena Doman

Gigantoraptor was "diagnosed" on the basis of a single, incomplete skeleton discovered in Mongolia in 2005, so further research will shed much-needed light on the lifestyle of this huge, feathered dinosaur (which, by the way, wasn't a true raptor). See 10 Facts About Gigantoraptor

24
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Gobivenator

gobivenator
Gobivenator (Nobu Tamura).

Name

Gobivenator (Greek for "Gobi Desert hunter"); pronounced GO-bee-ven-ay-tore

Habitat

Plains of central Asia

Historical Period

Late Cretaceous (75-70 million years ago)

Size and Weight

About four feet long and 25 pounds

Diet

Meat

Distinguishing Characteristics

Narrow beak; feathers; bipedal posture

 

Small, feathered dinosaurs were thick on the ground in late Cretaceous central Asia, especially in the stretch of territory now occupied by the Gobi Desert. Announced to the world in 2014, on the basis of a single, near-complete fossil discovered in Mongolia's Flaming Cliffs formation, Gobivenator competed for prey with such familiar dinosaurs as Velociraptor and Oviraptor. (Gobivenator wasn't technically a raptor, but rather a close relative of another famous feathered dinosaur, Troodon). How, you may wonder, could all of these feathered hunters have survived in the austere environs of the Gobi Desert? Well, 75 million years ago, this region was a lush, forested landscape, stocked with enough lizards, amphibians and even small mammals to keep the average dinosaur sated.

25
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Hagryphus

hagryphus
Hagryphus. Wikimedia Commons

Name:

Hagryphus (Greek for "Ha's griffin"); pronounced HAG-riff-us

Habitat:

Woodlands of North America

Historical Period:

Late Cretaceous (75 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About eight feet long and 100 pounds

Diet:

Probably omnivorous

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Large size; probably feathers

 

The full name of Hagryphus is Hagryphus giganteus, which should tell you everything you need to know about this Oviraptor-like theropod: this was one of the biggest feathered dinosaurs of late Cretaceous North America (up to 8 feet long and 100 pounds) and also one of the fastest, probably capable of hitting top speeds of 30 miles an hour. Although comparably sized oviraptors have been discovered in central Asia, to date, Hagryphus is the largest of its breed known to have inhabited the New World, the next-biggest example being the 50- to 75-pound Chirostenotes. (By the way, the name Hagryphus derives from the Native American god Ha and the mythological, bird-like creature known as the Griffin.)

26
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Haplocheirus

haplocheirus
Haplocheirus. Nobu Tamura

Name:

Haplocheirus (Greek for "simple hand"); pronounced HAP-low-CARE-us

Habitat:

Plains of central Asia

Historical Period:

Late Jurassic (160 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About 10 feet long and 100 pounds

Diet:

Meat

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Short arms; large claws on hands; feathers

 

Paleontologists have long suspected that birds evolved not once, but multiple times from the feathered theropods of the Mesozoic Era (although it seems that only one line of birds survived the K/T Extinction 65 million years ago and evolved into the modern variety). The discovery of Haplocheirus, an early genus in the line of bipedal dinosaurs known as "alvarezsaurs," helps confirm this theory: Haplocheirus predated Archaeopteryx by millions of years, yet it already displayed various bird-like features, such as feathers and clawed hands. Haplocheirus is also important because it sets the alvarezsaur family tree back a whopping 63 million years; previously, paleontologists had dated these feathered theropods to the middle Cretaceous period, while Haplocheirus lived during the late Jurassic.

27
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Hesperonychus

hesperonychus
Hesperonychus. Nobu Tamura

Name:

Hesperonychus (Greek for "western claw"); pronounced HESS-peh-RON-ih-cuss

Habitat:

Woodlands of North America

Historical Period:

Late Cretaceous (75 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About two feet long and 3-5 pounds

Diet:

Probably insects

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Small size; long tail; feathers

 

As so often happens in the dinosaur world, the incomplete fossil of Hesperonychus was unearthed (in Canada's Dinosaur Provincial Park) a full two decades before paleontologists got around to examining it. It turns out that this tiny, feathered theropod was one of the smallest dinosaurs ever to live in North America, with a weight of about five pounds, dripping wet. Like its close relative, the Asian Microraptor, Hesperonychus probably lived high up in trees, and glided from branch to branch on its feathered wings to avoid larger, ground-dwelling predators.

28
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Heyuannia

heyuannia
Heyuannia. Wikimedia Commons

Name:

Heyuannia ("from Heyuan"); pronounced hay-you-WAN-ee-ah

Habitat:

Woodlands of Central Asia

Historical Period:

Late Cretaceous (75 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About eight feet long and a few hundred pounds

Diet:

Probably omnivorous

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Small arms; small first fingers on hands

 

One of the more recent Oviraptor-like dinosaurs to be discovered in Central Asia, Heyuannnia differs from its Mongolian relatives in having actually been unearthed in China proper. This small, bipedal, feathered theropod was distinguished by its unusual hands (with their small, blunt first digits), comparably small arms, and lack of a head crest. Like its fellow oviraptors (and also like modern birds), the females probably sat on clutches of eggs until they hatched. As to Heyuannia's precise evolutionary relationship to the dozens of other oviraptors of late Cretaceous Asia, that remains a subject of further study.

29
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Huaxiagnathus

huaxiagnathus
Huaxiagnathus. Nobu Tamura

Name:

Huaxiagnathus (Chinese/Greek for "Chinese jaw"); pronounced HWAX-ee-ag-NATH-us

Habitat:

Plains of Asia

Historical Period:

Early Cretaceous (130 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About six feet long and 75 pounds

Diet:

Meat

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Large size; long fingers on hand; probably feathers

 

Huaxiagnathus towered over the numerous other "dino-birds" (not to mention the actual birds) that have recently been discovered in the famous Liaoning fossil beds of China; at six feet in length and some 75 pounds, this theropod was significantly larger than more famous feathered kin like Sinosauropteryx and Compsognathus, and had correspondingly longer, more capably grasping hands. As with many Liaoning discoveries, a near-complete specimen of Huaxiagnathus, lacking only the tail, has been found preserved across five large slabs of stone.

30
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Incisivosaurus

incisivisosaurus
Incisivosaurus. Wikimedia Commons

Name:

Incisivosaurus (Greek for "incisor lizard"); pronounced in-SIZE-ih-voh-SORE-us

Habitat:

Woodlands of Asia

Historical Period:

Early Cretaceous (130-125 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About three feet long and 5-10 pounds

Diet:

Plants

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Long legs; clawed hands; prominent teeth

 

Proving that there's no such thing as a hard and fast dinosaur rule, paleontologists have discovered that not all theropods were carnivorous. Exhibit A is the chicken-sized Incisivosaurus, whose skull and teeth show all the adaptations of a typical plant eater (strong jaws with big teeth in the front, and smaller teeth in the back for grinding up vegetable matter). In fact, this dino-bird's front teeth were so prominent and beaverlike that it must have presented a comical appearance--that is, if any of its fellow dinosaurs had been capable of laughing!

Technically, Incisivosaurus is classified as an "oviraptosaurian," a fancy way of saying that its closest relative was the widely misunderstood (and probably feathered) Oviraptor. There's also a possibility that Incisivosaurus has been misdiagnosed, and may wind up being assigned as a species of another genus of feathered dinosaur, possibly Protarchaeopteryx.

31
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Ingenia

ingenia
Ingenia. Sergio Perez

Name:

Ingenia ("from Ingen"); pronounced IN-jeh-NEE-ah

Habitat:

Woodlands of Central Asia

Historical Period:

Late Cretaceous (70 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About five feet long and 50 pounds

Diet:

Probably omnivorous

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Small size; short arms with long fingers; bipedal posture; feathers

 

Ingenia wasn't any more ingenious than the other dinosaurs of its time and place; its name derives from the Ingen region of central Asia, where it was discovered in the mid-1970's. Very few fossils of this small, feathered theropod have been identified, but (from the location of nearby nesting grounds) we know that Ingenia hatched clutches of two dozen eggs at a time. Its nearest relative was another dinosaur that kept in close contact with its young before and after they hatched, Oviraptor--which itself has lent its name to a huge family of central Asian "oviraptorosaurs."

32
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Jinfengopteryx

jinfengopteryx
Jinfengopteryx. Wikimedia Commons

Name:

Jinfengopteryx (Greek for "Jinfeng wing"); pronounced JIN-feng-OP-ter-ix

Habitat:

Plains of Asia

Historical Period:

Late Jurassic-Early Cretaceous (150-140 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About two feet long and 10 pounds

Diet:

Probably omnivorous

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Small size; bipedal posture; feathers

 

When its intact fossil (complete with the impressions of feathers) was discovered a few years ago in China, Jinfengopteryx was initially identified as a prehistoric bird, and then as an early avian pioneer comparable to Archaeopteryx; only later did paleontologists notice some marked similarities with the troodont theropods (a family of feathered dinosaurs epitomized by Troodon). Today, Jinfengopteryx's blunt snout and enlarged hind claws point to it having been a genuine dinosaur, albeit one well along the "bird" end of the evolutionary spectrum.

33
of 78

Juravenator

juravenator
Juravenator (Wikimedia Commons).

Name:

Juravenator (Greek for "Jura Mountains hunter"); pronounced JOOR-ah-ven-ate-or

Habitat:

Plains of Europe

Historical Period:

Late Jurassic (150 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About two feet long and a few pounds

Diet:

Probably fish and insects

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Small size; lack of preserved feathers

 

Some dinosaurs are easier to recreate from their "type specimens" than others. The only known fossil of Juravenator is of an extremely small individual, presumably a juvenile, only about two feet long. The problem is, comparable juvenile theropods of the late Jurassic period show evidence of feathers, impressions of which are completely lacking in Juravenator's remains. Paleontologists aren't quite sure what to make of this conundrum: it's possible that this individual did have sparse feathers, which didn't survive the fossilization process, or that it belonged to another category of theropod characterized by scaly, reptilian skin.

34
of 78

Khaan

khaan
Khaan. Wikimedia Commons

Name:

Khaan (Mongolian for "lord"); prounounced KAHN

Habitat:

Woodlands of Central Asia

Historical Period:

Late Cretaceous (70 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About four feet long and 30 pounds

Diet:

Probably omnivorous

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Short, blunt skull; bipedal posture; large hands and feet

 

Its name is certainly more distinctive, but taxonomically speaking, Khaan was closely related to fellow oviraptors (small, feathered theropods) like Oviraptor and Conchoraptor (this dinosaur was originally mistaken for another central Asian oviraptor, Ingenia). What makes Khaan special are the completeness of its fossil remains and its unusually blunt skull, which appears to be more "primitive," or basal, than those of its oviraptor cousins. Like all of the small, feathered theropods of the Mesozoic Era, Khaan represents yet another intermediate stage in the slow evolution of dinosaurs into birds.

35
of 78

Kol

kol
Kol. Wikimedia Commons

Name:

Kol (Mongolian for "foot"); pronounced COAL

Habitat:

Deserts of central Asia

Historical Period:

Late Cretaceous (75 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About six feet long and 40-50 pounds

Diet:

Meat

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Bipedal posture; possibly feathers

 

As you can guess from its name--Mongolian for "foot"--Kol is represented in the fossil record by a single, well-preserved foot. Still, this sole anatomical remnant is enough for paleontologists to classify Kol as an alvarezsaur, a family of small theropods exemplified by the South American Alvarezsaurus. Kol shared its central Asian habitat with the larger, more bird-like Shuvuuia, with which it probably shared a coat of feathers, and it may have been preyed on by the ubiquitous Velociraptor. (By the way, Kol is one of a trio of three-letter dinosaurs, the others being the Asian Mei and the western European Zby.)

36
of 78

Linhenykus

linhenykus
Linhenykus. Julius Csotonyi

Name:

Linhenykus (Greek for "Linhe claw"); pronounced LIN-heh-NYE-kuss

Habitat:

Plains of central Asia

Historical Period:

Late Cretaceous (85-75 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About three feet long and a few pounds

Diet:

Meat

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Small size; single-clawed hands

 

Not to be confused with Linheraptor--a classic, feathered raptor of the late Cretaceous period--Linhenykus was actually a type of small theropod known as an alvarezsaur, after the signature genus Alvarezsaurus. The importance of this tiny (no more than two or three pound) predator is that it had only one clawed finger on each hand, making it the first one-fingered dinosaur in the fossil record (most theropods had three-fingered hands, the exception being the two-fingered tyrannosaurs). To judge by its unusual anatomy, the central Asian Linhenykus made its living by digging its single digit into termite mounds and extracting the tasty bugs lurking within.

37
of 78

Linhevenator

linhevenator
Linhevenator. Nobu Tamura

Name:

Linhevenator (Greek for "Linhe hunter"); pronounced LIN-heh-veh-nay-tore

Habitat:

Plains of central Asia

Historical Period:

Late Cretaceous (80-70 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About five feet long and 75 pounds

Diet:

Meat

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Moderate size; feathers; large claws on hind feet

 

Not all feathered dinosaurs equipped with large, curved claws on their hind feet were true raptors. Witness Linhevenator, a recently discovered central Asian theropod that has been classified as a "troodont," that is, a close relative of the North American Troodon. One of the most complete troodont fossils ever found, Linhevenator may have made its living by digging into the ground for prey, and may even have been capable of climbing trees! (By the way, Linhevenator was a different dinosaur than either Linhenykus or Linheraptor, both of which were also discovered in the Linhe region of Mongolia.)

38
of 78

Machairasaurus

machairasaurus
Machairasaurus. Getty Images

Name

Machairasaurus (Greek for "short scimitar lizard"); pronounced mah-CARE-oh-SORE-us

Habitat

Woodlands of Asia

Historical Period

Late Cretaceous (70 million years ago)

Size and Weight

About three feet long and 10-20 pounds

Diet

Unknown; possibly omnivorous

Distinguishing Characteristics

Feathers; bipedal posture; long claws on hands

 

During the late Cretaceous period, the plains and woodlands of Asia were populated by a bewildering profusion of feathered dino-birds, many of them closely related to Oviraptor. Named by the famous paleontologist Dong Zhiming in 2010, Machairasaurus stood out from other "oviraptorosaurs" thanks to its unusually long front claws, which it may have used to pull leaves down from trees or even to dig into the soil for tasty insects. It was closely related to a handful of other feathered Asian dinosaurs, including the contemporaneous Ingenia and Heyuannia.

39
of 78

Mahakala

mahakala
Mahakala. Nobu Tamura

Name:

Mahakala (after a Buddhist deity); pronounced mah-ha-KAH-la

Habitat:

Plains of central Asia

Historical Period:

Late Cretaceous (80 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About two feet long and a few pounds

Diet:

Small animals

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Small size; probably feathers

 

When it was discovered last decade in the Gobi Desert, Mahakala answered some important questions about the evolutionary relationships between late Cretaceous dinosaurs and birds. This bipedal, feathered carnivore was certainly a raptor, but an especially primitive (or "basal") member of the breed, which (judging by the small size of this genus) started to evolve in the feathered flight direction around 80 million years ago. Even still, Mahakala is just one of a huge assortment of late Cretaceous dino-birds that have been unearthed in central and eastern Asia over the last two decades.

40
of 78

Mei

mei
Mei. Wikimedia Commons

Name:

Mei (Chinese for "sound asleep"); pronounced MAY

Habitat:

Woodlands of Asia

Historical Period:

Early Cretaceous (140-135 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About two feet long and a few pounds

Diet:

Probably omnivorous

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Small size; small skull; long legs

 

Almost as tiny as its name, Mei was a small, probably feathered theropod whose closest relative was the much larger Troodon. The story behind this dinosaur's odd moniker (Chinese for "sound asleep") is that the complete fossil of a juvenile was found in a sleeping position--with its tail wrapped around its body and its head tucked underneath its arm. If that sounds like the sleeping posture of the typical bird, you're not far off the mark: paleontologists believe Mei was yet another intermediate form between birds and dinosaurs. (For the record, this unfortunate hatchling was probably smothered in its sleep by a rain of volcanic ash.)

41
of 78

Microvenator

microvenator
Microvenator (Wikimedia Commons).

This dinosaur's name, "tiny hunter," refers to the size of a juvenile specimen discovered in Montana by paleontologist John Ostrom, but in fact Microvenator probably grew to a respectable length of ten feet. See an in-depth profile of Microvenator

42
of 78

Mirischia

mirischia
Mirischia (Ademar Pereira).

Name:

Mirischia (Greek for "wonderful pelvis"); pronounced ME-riss-KEY-ah

Habitat:

Woodlands of South America

Historical Period:

Middle Cretaceous (110-100 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About six feet long and 15-20 pounds

Diet:

Meat

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Small size; asymmetrical pelvic bones

 

As you can guess from its name--Greek for "wonderful pelvis"--Mirischia possessed an unusual pelvic structure, with an asymmetrical ischium (in fact, this dinosaur's full name is Mirischia asymmetrica). One of the innumerable small theropods populating middle Cretaceous South America, Mirischia seems to have been most closely related to the earlier, North American Compsognathus, and also had some traits in common with the western European Aristosuchus. There are some tantalizing hints that Mirischia's oddly shaped pelvis harbored an air sac, yet more support for the evolutionary line connecting the small theropods of the late Mesozoic Era and modern birds.

43
of 78

Mononykus

mononykus
Mononykus. Wikimedia Commons

Name:

Mononykus (Greek for "single claw"); pronounced MON-oh-NYE-cuss

Habitat:

Plains of Asia

Historical Period:

Late Cretaceous (80-70 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About three feet long and 10 pounds

Diet:

Insects

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Long legs; long claws on hands

 

More often than not, paleontologists can infer a dinosaur's behavior from its anatomy. That's the case with Mononykus, whose small size, long legs, and long, curved claws point to it being an insectivore that spent its day clawing at the Cretaceous equivalent of termite mounds. Like other small theropods, Mononykus was probably covered in feathers, and represented an intermediate stage in the evolution of dinosaurs into birds.

By the way, you may notice that the spelling of Mononykus isn't quite orthodox by Greek standards. That's because its original name, Mononychus, turned out to have been preoccupied by a genus of beetle, so paleontologists had to get creative. (At least Mononykus was given a name: discovered way back in 1923, its fossil languished in storage for over 60 years, classified as belonging to an "unidentified bird-like dinosaur.")

44
of 78

Nankangia

nankangia
Nankangia (Wikimedia Commons).

Name

Nankangia (after Nankang Province in China); pronounced non-KAHN-gee-ah

Habitat

Woodlands of eastern Asia

Historical Period

Late Cretaceous (70-65 million years ago)

Size and Weight

About three feet long and 5-10 pounds

Diet

Unknown; possibly omnivorous

Distinguishing Characteristics

Small size; prominent beak; feathers

 

Chinese paleontologists have a lot of work cut out for them, as they attempt to distinguish among the various Oviraptor-like, late Cretaceous "dino-birds" that have recently been discovered in their country. Unearthed in the vicinity of three similar theropods (two of which have been named, and one of which remains unidentified), Nankangia seems to have been largely herbivorous, and probably spent a fair amount of its time evading the attention of larger tyrannosaurs and raptors. Its closest relatives were probably the (much bigger) Gigantoraptor and the (much smaller) Yulong.

45
of 78

Nemegtomaia

nemegtomaia
Nemegtomaia. Wikimedia Commons

It may or may not have anything to do with this feathered dinosaur's presumed insect diet, but paleontologists recently unearthed a specimen of Nemegtomaia that had been partially eaten by hordes of Cretaceous beetles shortly after its death. See an in-depth profile of Nemegtomaia

46
of 78

Nomingia

nomingia
Nomingia. Wikimedia Commons

Name:

Nomingia (from the region of Mongolia where it was found); pronounced no-MIN-gee-ah

Habitat:

Woodlands of Asia

Historical Period:

Late Cretaceous (70-65 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About six feet long and 25 pounds

Diet:

Probably omnivorous

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Long legs; clawed hands; fan on end of tail

 

In most cases, the similarity between small theropod dinosaurs and birds is limited to their size, posture, and feather coats. Nomingia took its birdlike attributes one step further: this is the first dinosaur ever discovered to have sported a pygostyle, that is, a fused structure on the end of its tail that supported a fan of feathers. (All birds have pygostyles, though some species' displays are more garish than others, as witness the famous peacock.) Despite its avian features, however, Nomingia was clearly more on the dinosaur than on the bird end of the evolutionary spectrum. It's likely that this dino-bird used its pygostyle-supported fan as a way of attracting mates--the same way a male peacock flashes its tail feathers to reel in available females.

47
of 78

Nqwebasaurus

nqwebasaurus
Nqwebasaurus. Ezequiel Vera

Name:

Nqwebasaurus (Greek for "Nqweba lizard"); pronounced nn-KWAY-buh-SORE-us

Habitat:

Plains of southern Africa

Historical Period:

Early Cretaceous (130 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About three feet long and 25 pounds

Diet:

Probably omnivorous

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Small size; long first fingers on hands

 

One of the few early theropods to be discovered in sub-Saharan Africa, Nqwebasaurus is known from a single, incomplete skeleton, probably a juvenile. Based on an analysis of this fossil's unusual hands--the long first fingers were partially opposable to the second and third--experts have concluded that this small dinosaur was an omnivore that literally clutched at anything it could eat, a conclusion backed up by the preservation of gastroliths in its gut (these "stomach stones" are useful accessories for grinding up vegetable matter).

48
of 78

Ornitholestes

ornitholestes
Ornitholestes (Royal Tyrell Museum).

It's certainly possible that Ornitholestes preyed on the other proto-birds of the late Jurassic period, but since birds didn't really come into their own until the late Cretaceous, this dinosaur's diet probably consisted of small lizards. See an in-depth profile of Ornitholestes

49
of 78

Oviraptor

oviraptor
Oviraptor. Wikimedia Commons

The type fossil of Oviraptor had the bad luck to be unearthed atop a clutch of foreign-looking eggs, which led early paleontologists to brand this feathered dinosaur an "egg thief." It turns out that that particular individual was merely brooding its own eggs! See 10 Facts About Oviraptor

50
of 78

Parvicursor

parvicursor
Parvicursor. Wikimedia Commons

Name

Parvicursor (Greek for "tiny runner"); pronounced PAR-vih-cur-sore

Habitat

Plains of central Asia

Historical Period

Late Cretaceous (80-70 million years ago)

Size and Weight

About one foot long and less than a pound

Diet

Unknown; probably insects

Distinguishing Characteristics

Extremely small size; bipedal posture; feathers

 

If Parvicursor were better represented in the fossil record, it might take the prize as the smallest dinosaur that ever lived. As things stand, though, it's hard to make judgments based on the this central Asian alvarezsaur's partial remains: it may have been a juvenile rather than an adult, and it may also have been a species (or specimen) of better-known feathered dinosaurs like Shuvuuia and Mononykus. What we do know is that the type fossil of Parvicusor measures barely a foot from head to tail, and that this theropod couldn't have weighed more than a third of a pound soaking wet!

51
of 78

Pedopenna

pedopenna
Pedopenna. Frederick Spindler

Name:

Pedopenna (Greek for "feathered foot"); pronounced PED-oh-PEN-ah

Habitat:

Woodlands of Asia

Historical Period:

Late Jurassic (150 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About three feet long and 5-10 pounds

Diet:

Probably omnivorous

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Long legs; long claws on hands; feathers

 

For the past 25 years or so, paleontologists have driven themselves crazy trying to figure out where the dinosaur evolutionary tree ends and the bird evolutionary tree begins. A case study in this ongoing state of confusion is Pedopenna, a tiny, birdlike theropod that was contemporary with two other famous Jurassic dino-birds, Archaeopteryx and Epidendrosaurus. Pedopenna clearly had many birdlike features, and may have been capable of climbing (or fluttering) into trees and hopping from branch to branch. Like another early dino-bird, Microraptor, Pedopenna may also have sported primitive wings on both its arms and its legs.

52
of 78

Philovenator

philovenator
Philovenator (Eloy Manzanero).

Name

Philovenator (Greek for "loves to hunt"); pronounced FIE-low-veh-nay-tore

Habitat

Plains of central Asia

Historical Period

Late Cretaceous (75-70 million years ago)

Size and Weight

Undisclosed

Diet

Meat

Distinguishing Characteristics

Small size; bipedal posture; feathers

 

Just how much did Philovenator "love to hunt?" Well, like the numerous other feathered theropods that prowled central Asia during the late Cretaceous period, this two-legged "dino-bird" spent its days feasting on small lizards, insects, and any other pint-sized theropods unfortunate enough to venture in its immediate vicinity. When it was first discovered, Philovenator was classified as a juvenile specimen of the better-known Saurornithoides, then as a close cousin of Linhevenator, and was finally granted its own genus (its species name, curriei, honors the globetrotting paleontologist Philip J. Currie).

53
of 78

Pneumatoraptor

pneumatoraptor
Pneumatoraptor (Hungarian Natural History Museum).

Name

Pneumatoraptor (Greek for "air thief"); pronounced noo-MAT-oh-rapt-tore

Habitat

Woodlands of central Europe

Historical Period

Late Cretaceous (85 million years ago)

Size and Weight

About 18 inches long and a few pounds

Diet

Meat

Distinguishing Characteristics

Small size; bipedal posture; feathers

 

Like many dinosaurs with "raptor" in their names, Pneumatoraptor was probably not a true raptor, or dromaeosaur, but rather one of the innumerable small, feathered "dino-birds" that prowled the landscape of late Cretaceous Europe. As befitting its name, Greek for "air thief," what we know about Pneumatoraptor is airy and insubstantial: not only can't we be sure what group of theropods it belonged to, but it's represented in the fossil record by a single shoulder girdle. (For the record, the "air" part of its name refers to the hollow portions of this bone, which would have been light and birdlike in real life.)

54
of 78

Protarchaeopteryx

protarchaeopteryx
Protarchaeopteryx. Wikimedia Commons

Name:

Protarchaeopteryx (Greek for "before Archaeopteryx"); pronounced PRO-tar-kay-OP-ter-ix

Habitat:

Woodlands of Asia

Historical Period:

Early Cretaceous (130-125 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About two feet long and a few pounds

Diet:

Probably omnivorous

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Small size; feathers on arms and tail

 

Some dinosaur names make more sense than others. A good example is Protarchaeopteryx, which translates as "before Archaeopteryx," even though this birdlike dinosaur lived tens of millions of years after its more famous ancestor. In this case, the "pro" in the name refers to Protarchaeopteryx's supposedly less advanced features; this dino-bird seems to have been considerably less aerodynamic than Archaeopteryx, and was almost certainly incapable of flight. If it couldn't fly, you may ask, why did Protarchaeopteryx have feathers? As with other small theropods, this dinosaur’s arm and tail feathers likely evolved as a way of attracting mates, and may (secondarily) have given it some "lift" if it had to make a sudden, running leap away from larger predators.

55
of 78

Richardoestesia

richardoestesia
Richardoestesia. Texas Geology

Name:

Richardoestesia (after paleontologist Richard Estes); pronounced rih-CAR-doe-ess-TEE-zha

Habitat:

Swamps of North America

Historical Period:

Late Cretaceous (70 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About four feet long and 25 pounds

Diet:

Meat

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Small size; bipedal posture; probably feathers

 

For about 70 years after its partial remains were discovered, Richardoestesia was classified as a species of Chirostenotes, until further analysis resulted in its being assigned to its own genus (which is sometimes spelled without the "h," as Ricardoestesia). However you choose to spell it, Richardoestesia remains a poorly understood dinosaur, sometimes classified as a troodont (and hence closely related to Troodon) and sometimes classified as a raptor. Based on the shape of this small theropod's teeth, there's some speculation that it may have subsisted on fish, though we'll probably never know for sure until more fossils are discovered. (By the way, Richardoestesia is one of the few dinosaurs to honor a paleontologist with both his first and last names, another being Nedcolbertia.)

56
of 78

Rinchenia

rinchenia
Rinchenia. Joao Boto

Name:

Rinchenia (after paleontologist Rinchen Barsbold); pronounced RIN-cheh-NEE-ah

Habitat:

Plains of Central Asia

Historical Period:

Late Cretaceous (75 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About six feet long and 100 pounds

Diet:

Meat

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Large head crest; powerful jaws

 

Paleontologists don't usually go about naming new dinosaurs after themselves; in fact, Rinchen Barsbold thought he was kidding when he temporarily named this newly discovered Oviraptor-like theropod Rinchenia, and the name, to his surprise, stuck. Judging by its incomplete skeleton, this feathered, central Asian dino-bird appears to have sported a larger-than-average head crest, and its powerful jaws hint that it may have pursued an omnivorous diet, consisting of hard-to-crack nuts and seeds as well as insects, vegetables, and other small dinosaurs.

57
of 78

Saurornithoides

saurornithoides
Saurornithoides (Taena Doman).

Name:

Saurornithoides (Greek for "bird-like lizard"); pronounced sore-ORN-ih-THOY-deez

Habitat:

Plains of central Asia

Historical Period:

Late Cretaceous (70-65 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About 10 feet long and 100 pounds

Diet:

Meat

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Bipedal posture; long arms; narrow snout

 

For all intents and purposes, Saurornithoides was the central Asian version of the easier-to-pronounce North American Troodon, a human-sized, bipedal predator that chased small birds and lizards across the dusty plains (and that may also have been smarter than the average dinosaur, judging by its larger-than-average brain). The relatively large size of Saurornithoides' eyes are a clue that it probably hunted for food at night, the better to stay out of the way of the larger theropods of late Cretaceous Asia that might otherwise have it for lunch.

58
of 78

Scansoriopteryx

scansoriopteryx
Scansoriopteryx. Wikimedia Commons

Name:

Scansoriopteryx (Greek for "climbing wing"); pronounced SCAN-sore-ee-OP-ter-ix

Habitat:

Woodlands of Asia

Historical Period:

Early Cretaceous (130-125 million years ago

Size and Weight:

About one foot long and less than a pound

Diet:

Insects

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Small size; extended claws on each hand

 

Like the feathered dinosaur to which it's most closely related--Epidendrosaurus--the early Cretaceous Scansoriopteryx is believed to have spent most of its life high up in trees, where it poked out grubs from underneath bark with its unusually long middle fingers. However, it's not clear if this early Cretaceous dino-bird was covered with feathers, and it appears to have been incapable of flight. So far, this genus is known only by the fossil of a single juvenile; future discoveries may shed further light on its appearance and behavior.

Recently, a team of researchers made the striking claim that Scansoriopteryx was not a dinosaur after all, but a different kind of tree-dwelling reptile along the lines of much earlier flying lizards like Kuehneosaurus. One piece of evidence in favor of this hypothesis is that Scansoripteryx possessed elongated third fingers, whereas most theropod dinosaurs have elongated second fingers; the feet of this putative dinosaur may also have been adapted for perching on tree branches.  If true (and the argument is far from conclusive), this may shake up the widely accepted theory that birds descended from ground-dwelling dinosaurs!

59
of 78

Sciurumimus

sciurumimus
Sciurumimus. Wikimedia Commons

Name:

Sciurumimus (Greek for "squirrel mimic"); pronounced skee-ORE-oo-MY-muss

Habitat:

Swamps of western Europe

Historical Period:

Late Jurassic (150 million years ago)

Sizea nd Weight:

About two feet long and 5-10 pounds

Diet:

Insects (when young), meat (when older)

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Large eyes; bipedal posture; feathers

 

Germany's Solnhofen fossil beds have yielded some of the most spectacular dinosaur fossils of all time, including multiple specimens of Archaeopteryx. Now, researchers have announced the discovery of an Archaeopteryx contemporary that's important for two reasons: first, the juvenile specimen of Sciurumimus has been preserved in sharp anatomical detail, and second, this feathered dinosaur occupied a different branch of the family tree than "normal" feathered dinos like Velociraptor or Therizinosaurus.

Technically, Sciurumimus ("squirrel mimic") has been classified as a "megalosaur" theropod, that is, a carnivorous dinosaur most closely related to the primitive Megalosaurus. The problem is that all of the other feathered dinosaurs identified to date have been "coelurosaurs," a truly enormous family that encompasses raptors, tyrannosaurs, and the small, feathered "dino-birds" of the late Cretaceous period. What this means is that feathered theropods may have been the rule rather than the exception--and if theropods had feathers, then why not plant-eating dinosaurs as well? Alternatively, it may be the case that the earliest common ancestor of all dinosaurs sported feathers, and some later dinosaurs lost this adaptation as a result of evolutionary pressures.

Its feathers aside, Sciurumimus is certainly the most strikingly preserved dinosaur fossil to be discovered in the last 20 years. The outlines of this theropod are so sharply preserved, and the Sciurumimus juvenile has such big, adorable eyes, that the type fossil almost looks like a still image from an animated TV show. In fact, Sciurumimus may wind up teaching scientists as much about baby dinosaurs as it does about feathered dinosaurs; after all, this two-foot-long, harmless-looking squirt was destined to grow into a vicious, 20-foot-long super-predator!

60
of 78

Shuvuuia

shuvuuia
Shuvuuia. Wikimedia Commons

The euphoniously named Shuvuuia (Mongolian for "bird") is impossible to assign exclusively to either the dinosaur or bird categories: it had a birdlike head, but its stunted arms call to mind the withered front limbs of distantly related tyrannosaurs. See an in-depth profile of Shuvuuia

61
of 78

Similicaudipteryx

similicaudipteryx
Similicaudipteryx. Xing Lida and Song Qijin

The feathered dinosaur Similicaudipteryx is well known thanks to the recent, detailed research of a team of Chinese paleontologists, who claim that the juveniles of this genus had differently structured feathers than the adults. See an in-depth profile of Similicaudipteryx

62
of 78

Sinocalliopteryx

sinocalliopteryx
Sinocalliopteryx. Nobu Tamura

Not only was the feathered dinosaur Sinocalliopteryx big, but it sported big feathers, too. The fossil remains of this dino-bird bear the imprints of tufts as long as four inches, as well as shorter feathers on the feet. See an in-depth profile of Sinocalliopteryx

63
of 78

Sinornithoides

sinornithoides
Sinornithoides. John Conway

Name:

Sinornithoides (Greek for "Chinese bird form"); pronounced SIGH-nor-nih-THOY-deez

Habitat:

Woodlands of Asia

Historical Period:

Early Cretaceous (130 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About three feet long and 5-10 pounds

Diet:

Meat

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Feathers; long tail; sharp teeth

 

Known from a single specimen--which was discovered in a curled-up posture, either because it was sleeping or because it was huddling to protect itself from the elements--Sinornithoides was a small, agile, feathered theropod that resembled a (much) smaller version of the more famous Troodon. Like other troodonts, as they're called, the early Cretaceous Sinornithoides probably feasted on a large selection of prey, ranging from insects to lizards to its fellow dinosaurs--and, in turn, it was probably preyed on by the larger feathered dinosaurs of its Asian habitat.

64
of 78

Sinornithosaurus

sinornithosaurus
Sinornithosaurus. Wikimedia Commons

When it was first discovered, paleontologists examining the tooth structure of Sinornithosaurus speculated that this feathered dinosaur may have been poisonous. It turned out, though, that they were interpreting the fossil evidence incorrectly. See an in-depth profile of Sinornithosaurus

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Sinosauropteryx

sinosauropteryx
Sinosauropteryx. Emily Willoughby

Name:

Sinosauropteryx (Greek for "Chinese lizard wing"); pronounced SIGH-no-sore-OP-ter-ix

Habitat:

Woodlands of Asia

Historical Period:

Early Cretaceous (130-125 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About four feet long and 10-20 pounds

Diet:

Probably omnivorous

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Narrow head; long legs and tail; feathers

 

Sinosauropteryx was the first of a series of spectacular fossil discoveries made at the Liaoning Quarry in China starting in 1996. This was the first dinosaur to bear the unmistakable (if somewhat faint) imprint of primitive feathers, proving (as many paleontologists had previously speculated) that at least some small theropods looked uncannily like birds. (In a new development, an analysis of preserved pigment cells has determined that Sinosauropteryx had rings of orange and white feathers alternating down its long tail, kind of a like a tabby cat.)

Sinosauropteryx might be even more famous today if it hadn't been quickly superseded by numerous other Liaoning dino-birds, such as Sinornithosaurus and Incisivosaurus. Clearly, during the early Cretaceous period, this region of China was a hotbed of small, birdlike theropods, all of which shared the same territory.

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Sinovenator

sinovenator
Sinovenator. Wikimedia Commons

Name:

Sinovenator (Greek for "Chinese hunter"); pronounced SIGH-no-VEN-ate-or

Habitat:

Woodlands of China

Historical Period:

Early Cretaceous (130-125 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About three feet long and 5-10 pounds

Diet:

Probably omnivorous

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Small size; long legs; feathers

 

One of the numerous genera of dino-birds dug up in China's Liaoning Quarry, Sinovenator was most closely related to Troodon (hailed by some experts as the smartest dinosaur that ever lived). Confusingly, though, this small, feathered theropod had the raised single claw on each hind foot characteristic of raptors, and thus may represent an intermediate form between early raptors and later troodonts. Whatever the case, Sinovenator appears to have been a fast, agile predator. In light of the fact that its remains were found mixed in with those of other early Cretaceous dino-birds such as Incisivosaurus and Sinornithosaurus, it probably hunted its fellow theropods (and was hunted by them in turn).

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of 78

Sinusonasus

sinusonasus
Sinusonasus. Ezequiel Vera

Name:

Sinusonasus (Greek for "sinus-shaped nose"); pronounced SIGH-no-so-NAY-suss

Habitat:

Woodlands of Asia

Historical Period:

Early Cretaceous (130 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About three feet long and 5-10 pounds

Diet:

Meat

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Feathers; large teeth

 

Sinusonasus must have been standing behind the door when all the cool dinosaur names were being handed out. It sounds like a painful disease, or at least a bothersome head cold, but this was actually an early feathered dinosaur closely related to the more famous (and much later) Troodon. Judging by the single fossil specimen found so far, this feathered theropod appears to have been well-adapted to pursuing and eating a wide variety of small prey, ranging from insects to lizards to (possibly) other small dinosaurs of the early Cretaceous period.

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of 78

Talos

talos
Talos. Utah Museum of Natural History

Name:

Talos (after the figure from Greek myth); pronounced TAY-loss

Habitat:

Woodlands of North America

Historical Period:

Late Cretaceous (80-75 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About six feet long and 75-100 pounds

Diet:

Meat

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Moderate size; long talons on hind feet

 

Discovered in Utah in 2008, and named three years later, Talos was a nimble, feathered, child-sized theropod equipped with oversized talons on each of its hind feet. Sounds a bit like a raptor, doesn't it? Well, technically, Talos wasn't a true raptor, but part of a family of theropod dinosaurs closely related to Troodon. What makes Talos interesting is that the near-complete "type specimen" had an injured talon on one of its feet, and clearly lived with this injury for an extended period of time, possibly years. It's too early to say how Talos hurt its big toe, but one likely scenario is that it stubbed its precious digit whilst attacking a particularly thick-skinned herbivore.

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of 78

Troodon

troodon
Troodon. Taena Doman

Many people are aware of Troodon's reputation as the smartest dinosaur that ever lived, but few know that it was also a classic feathered theropod of late Cretaceous North America--and that it lent its name to a whole family of dino-birds, the "troodonts." See 10 Facts About Troodon

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of 78

Urbacodon

urbacodon
Urbacodon. Andrey Atuchin

Name:

Urbacodon (acronym/Greek for "Uzbek, Russian, British, American and Canadian tooth"); pronounced UR-bah-COE-don

Habitat:

Plains of central Asia

Historical Period:

Late Cretaceous (95 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About five feet long and 20-25 pounds

Diet:

Meat

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Small size; bipedal posture; lack of serrations on teeth

 

Urbacodon is a truly international dinosaur: the "urbac" in its name is an acronym for "Uzbek, Russian, British, American and Canadian," the nationalities of the paleontologists who participated in the dig in Uzbekistan where it was discovered. Known from only a piece of its jawbone, Urbacodon seems to have been closely related to two other feathered theropods of Eurasia, Byronosaurus and Mei (and all three of these dinosaurs are technically classified as "troodonts," in reference to the much more famous Troodon).

71
of 78

Velocisaurus

velocisaurus
Velocisaurus (Wikimedia Commons).

Name

Velocisaurus (Greek for "swift lizard"); pronounced veh-LOSS-ih-SORE-us

Habitat

Woodlands of South America

Historical Period

Late Cretaceous (70-65 million years ago)

Size and Weight

About four feet long and 10-15 pounds

Diet

Unknown; possibly omnivorous

Distinguishing Characteristics

Small size; bipedal posture; possibly feathers

 

Not to be confused with Velociraptor--which lived halfway around the world, in central Asia--Velocisaurus was a small, mysterious, presumably meat-eating dinosaur that's represented in the fossil record by a single, incomplete leg and foot. Still, we can infer a lot about this theropod by its distinctive toes: the robust third metatarsal seems well-adapted for a life spent on the run, meaning that Velocisaurus probably spent most of its day chasing after skittering prey or (equally likely) outrunning the larger predators of late Cretaceous South America. This dinosaur's closest relative seems to have been the slightly larger Masiakasaurus of Madagascar which itself was distinguished by its prominent, outward-curving teeth. Velocisaurus was discovered in 1985 in the Patagonia region of Argentina, and named six years later by the famous paleontologist Jose F. Bonaparte.

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of 78

Wellnhoferia

wellnhoferia
Wellnhoferia. Wikimedia Commons

Name:

Wellnhoferia (after paleontologist Peter Wellnhofer); pronounced WELN-hoff-EH-ree-ah

Habitat:

Forests and lakes of western Europe

Historical Period:

Late Jurassic (150 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About one foot long and less than a pound

Diet:

Insects

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Small size; primitive feathers

 

Archaeopteryx is one of the best-preserved dinosaurs (or birds, if you prefer) in the fossil record, with about a dozen near-complete specimens excavated from Germany's Solnhofen deposits, so it makes sense that paleontologists continue to pore over its remains in search of small deviations. Long story short, Wellnhoferia is the name assigned to one of these "outlying" Archaeopteryx fossils, distinguished from its brethren by its shorter tail and other, relatively obscure details of its anatomy. As you might expect, not everyone is convinced that Wellnhoferia merits its own genus, and many paleontologists continue to maintain that it was really a species of Archaeopteryx.

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of 78

Xiaotingia

xiaotingia
Xiaotingia. Government of China

The feathered Xiaotingia, recentlly discovered in China, preceded the more famous Archaeopteryx by five million years, and has been classified by paleontologists as a dinosaur rather than a true bird. See an in-depth profile of Xiaotingia

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of 78

Xixianykus

xixianykus
Xixianykus. Matt van Rooijen

Name:

Xixianykus (Greek for "Xixian claw"); pronounced shi-she-ANN-ih-kuss

Habitat:

Woodlands of eastern Asia

Historical Period:

Middle-Late Cretaceous (90-85 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About two feet long and a few pounds

Diet:

Small animals

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Small size; feathers; unusually long legs

 

Xixianykus is one of the newest alvarezsaurs, a family of feathered dino-birds that lived in Eurasia and the Americas during the middle to late Cretaceous periods, Alvarezsaurus being the poster genus of the group. Judging by this dinosaur's unusually long legs (about a foot long, compared to a head-to-tail body size of only two feet or so) Xixianykus must have been an unusually fast runner, chasing down small, speedy animals at the same time as it avoided being eaten by larger theropods. Xixianykus is also one of the oldest alvarezsaurs yet discovered, a hint that these feathered dinosaurs may have originated in Asia and then spread west.

75
of 78

Yi Qi

yi qi
Yi Qi. Government of China

Name

Yi Qi (Chinese for "strange wing"); pronounced ee-CHEE

Habitat

Woodlands of Asia

Historical Period

Late Jurassic (160 Million Years Ago)

Size and Weight

About one foot long and one pound

Diet

Probably insects

Distinguishing Characteristics

Small size; feathers; bat-like wings

 

Just when paleontologists thought they'd classified every conceivable type of dinosaur, along comes an outlier to shake up all the accepted theories. Announced to the world in April of 2015, Yi Qi was a tiny, pigeon-sized, feathered theropod (the same family that includes later tyrannosaurs and raptors) that possessed membranous, bat-like wings. (In fact, it wouldn't be too far off the mark to describe Yi Qi as a cross between a dinosaur, a pterosaur, a bird and a bat!) It's unclear whether Yi Qi was capable of powered flight--perhaps it glided on its wings like a Jurassic flying squirrel--but if it was, it represents another dinosaur that took to the air well before the putative "first bird," Archaeopteryx, which appeared ten million years later.

76
of 78

Yulong

yulong
Yulong. Nobu Tamura

Name:

Yulong (Chinese for "Henan province dragon"); pronounced YOU-long

Habitat:

Woodlands of Asia

Historical Period:

Late Cretaceous (75-65 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About 18 inches long and one pound

Diet:

Meat

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Small size; bipedal posture; feathers

 

The late Cretaceous fossil beds of China are thick with feathered dinosaurs of all sizes and types. One of the most recent species to join the theropod pack is Yulong, a close relative of Oviraptor that was significantly smaller than most dinosaurs of this type (only about a foot to a foot and a half long, compared to truly enormous members of the breed like Gigantoraptor). Somewhat unusually, Yulong's "type fossil" was pieced together from five separate fragmented juvenile specimens; the same team of paleontologists also discovered a fossilized Yulong embryo still inside its egg.

77
of 78

Zanabazar

zanabazar
Zanabazar. Wikimedia Commons

Name:

Zanabazar (after a Buddhist spiritual leader); pronounced ZAH-nah-bah-ZAR

Habitat:

Woodlands of central Asia

Historical Period:

Late Cretaceous (70-65 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About six feet long and 100 pounds

Diet:

Meat

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Relatively large size; bipedal posture; probably feathers

 

If the name Zanabazar sounds unfamiliar, that's only partly because this dinosaur ducked the usual Greek naming conventions and was christened after a Buddhist spiritual figure. The fact is, this close relative of Troodon was once thought to be a species of Saurornithoides, until a closer examination of its remains (25 years after they were first discovered) prompted a reassignment to its own genus. Essentially, Zanabazar was one of the prototypical "dino-birds" of late Cretaceous central Asia, an unusually smart predator that subsisted on smaller dinosaurs and mammals.

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of 78

Zuolong

zuolong
Zuolong (Wikimedia Commons).

Name

Zuolong (Chinese for "Tso's dragon"); pronounced zoo-oh-LONG

Habitat

Woodlands of Asia

Historical Period

Late Jurassic (160 million years ago)

Size and Weight

About 10 feet long and 75-100 pounds

Diet

Meat

Distinguishing Characteristics

Moderate size; bipedal posture; feathers

 

Did Zuolong taste good when it was chopped up into little bits, deep fried, and slathered in sweet sauce? We'll never know for sure, which is why it's ironic that this late Jurassic "dino-bird" was named after the 19th-century General Tso, whose name has been appropriated by thousands of Chinese restaurants in the U.S. "Tso's dragon," as Zuolong translates, is important for being one of the most primitive "coelurosaurs" (i.e., feathered dinosaurs related to Coelurus) yet identified, and is known by a single, well-preserved skeleton discovered in China. Zuolong coexisted with two other, larger theropods, Sinraptor and Monolophosaurus, that may well have hunted it down for dinner (or at least ordered it out on the phone).

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Strauss, Bob. "Feathered Dinosaur Pictures and Profiles." ThoughtCo, Mar. 19, 2017, thoughtco.com/feathered-dinosaur-pictures-and-profile-4049097. Strauss, Bob. (2017, March 19). Feathered Dinosaur Pictures and Profiles. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/feathered-dinosaur-pictures-and-profile-4049097 Strauss, Bob. "Feathered Dinosaur Pictures and Profiles." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/feathered-dinosaur-pictures-and-profile-4049097 (accessed December 18, 2017).