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Procompsognathus (Getty Images)


Procompsognathus (Greek for "before the elegant jaw"); pronounced pro-comp-SOG-nah-thuss


Swamps of western Europe

Historical Period:

Late Triassic (210 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About 4 feet long and 5-10 pounds


Small animals and insects

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Small size; long legs and snout

About Procompsognathus:

Despite its name--"before Compsognathus"--the evolutionary relationship of Procompsognathus to the later and better known Compsognathus is uncertain at best. Because of the poor quality of its fossil remains, the best we can say about Procompsognathus is that it was a carnivorous reptile, but beyond that, it's unclear if it was an early theropod dinosaur or a late archosaur like the bipedal Marasuchus (and thus not a dinosaur at all). Either way, though, Procompsognathus (and other reptiles like it) certainly lay at the base of later dinosaur evolution.
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