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Epidendrosaurus

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epidendrosaurus

Epidendrosaurus (Matt Martyniuk)

Name:

Epidendrosaurus (Greek for "lizard in the tree"); pronounced EP-ih-DEN-dro-SORE-us

Habitat:

Woodlands of Asia

Historical Period:

Late Jurassic (150 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About 6 inches long and a few ounces

Diet:

Probably omnivorous

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Tiny size; long arms with clawed hands

About Epidendrosaurus:

Archaeopteryx gets all the press, but there's a convincing case to be made that Epidendrosaurus was the first reptile to be closer to a bird than to a dinosaur. This pint-sized theropod was less than half the size of its more famous cousin, and it's a sure bet that it was covered with feathers. Most notably, Epidendrosaurus appears to have been adapted to an arboreal (tree-dwelling) lifestyle--its small size would have made it a simple matter to hop from branch to branch, and its long, curved claws were likely used to pry insects from tree bark.

So was the late Jurassic Epidendrosaurus really a bird rather than a dinosaur? As with all of the feathered "dino-birds," as these reptiles are called, it's impossible to say. It's better to think of the categories of "bird" and "dinosaur" as lying along a continuum, with some genera closer to either extreme and some smack in the middle. (By the way, some paleontologists believe that Epidendrosaurus should actually be subsumed under another dino-bird genus, Scansoriopteryx.)

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