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Discovery Magazine 2/1/2010


Dinosaurs—Small…and Smaller

Many people have the wrong idea that most dinosaurs were mega-ton monsters. Thirty-ton Apatosaurs or six-ton Tyrannosaurs are thought to be the norm to most people. The fact is, however, according to the fossil record, the average dinosaur actually was only about the size of a large cow, with many being even smaller. 

Deinonychus

The famed Deinonychus stood just a little taller than the average human. He had large, intimidating eyes, two slender, strong legs, a rigid tail, and powerful jaws filled with sharp, serrated teeth. Scientists have been most impressed with the intimidating claws of Deinonychus.

After taking a close look at this extinct reptile, it does not take long to understand why he was given a name meaning “terrible claw.” He had three fingers on each hand and four toes on each foot—all with sharp claws. One toe was short (scientists believe it probably never even touched the ground), while two toes were used for walking and running. It was the other toe on each foot of Deinonychus, however, that makes this dinosaur stand out above all others. One toe on each foot was equipped with the “terrible claw”—a powerful five-inch long sickle-like claw that was most likely used to tear into or hold onto his food.

Velociraptor

After examining the fossils of Velociraptor (which have been found in the countries of Mongolia, Russia, and China), you will likely notice how much this extinct creature resembles the North American dinosaur named Deinonychus. Both dinosaurs had sharp teeth, thin, muscular legs, a stiff tail, and fierce claws. Velociraptor was, however, smaller than Deinonychus. It had a long snout that was low, flat, and narrow, which was very different from that of other dinosaurs, and its fierce claw was not quite as large as that of Deinonychus.

Although the producers of the movie Jurassic Park portrayed Velociraptor as being a fairly large dinosaur, scientists who have studied the fossilized remains of Velociraptor believe that he was no larger than a Great Dane dog—about four times smaller than the size this dinosaur was portrayed in Jurassic Park.

Oviraptor

Reaching only about 3½ feet tall, Oviraptor was about the height and weight of an average German Shepherd dog. However, at 6-8 feet long, it would have been about 3 feet longer. The name Oviraptor means “egg thief.” Fossils of this little reptile were first found in 1924 very near a nest of eggs. Scientists then thought that the eggs belonged to a Protoceratops, and that the Oviraptor was stealing the eggs. The crushed skull of the fossilized “egg thief” was thought to have been an injury it received while trying to steal the eggs.

However, scientists are learning that their “egg thief” might not be such a thief after all. In southern Mongolia, an Oviraptor fossil was found near a nest of eggs. But this time, scientists found embryos (baby dinosaurs) in the eggs that were Oviraptor babies. As it turns out, the Oviraptor probably was not stealing eggs at all. Instead, it was probably protecting its own eggs. Isn’t it funny how many of our first thoughts about things (especially dinosaurs) turn out to be wrong when more evidence appears?

Compsognathus

Compsognathuswas only about the size of a large rooster. This little guy weighed just 6 pounds and grew to be only 3 feet long from head to tail. His name means “pretty jaw.” The small jaw was filled with many little, sharp teeth that probably were used to eat small animals like lizards or rodents.  (Contrary to what evolutionists teach, there would have been rodents and other mammals around at that time, just like there are now, because dinosaurs like Compsognathus were made on day six of Creation—the same day as all land animals).

Only two fossilized skeletons of Compsognathus have ever been found. In one case, the skeleton of a small lizard was found inside the fossilized stomach of a Compsognathus. This dinosaur’s ability to catch small lizards probably indicates that he could move around very swiftly on his skinny legs and three-toed feet.



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