Eoraptor (Greek for "dawn thief"); pronounced EE-oh-rap-tore
Forests of South America
Middle Triassic (230-225 million years ago)
Size and Weight:
About 3 feet long and 20 pounds
Tiny size; bipedal stance; small head with sharp teeth
Along with Herrerasaurus and Staurikosaurus, Eoraptor was one of the earliest dinosaurs. This tiny meat-eater (not a true raptor, by the way) had many of the generic features of later, more fearsome theropods: a bipedal stance, a long tail, five-fingered hands, and a small head filled with sharp teeth. Otherwise, Eoraptor boasted no specialized features at all--making it a kind of basic template for later dinosaur evolution (so much so that some paleontologists believe that Eoraptor was ancestral not to more advanced theropods, but to the plant-eating sauropods of the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods).