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Archaeopteryx, to which Protarchaeopteryx was only distantly related (Nobu Tamura)


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


Woodlands of Asia

Historical Period:

Early Cretaceous (130-125 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About two feet long and a few pounds


Probably omnivorous

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Small size; feathers on arms and tail


About Protarchaeopteryx:

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.


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