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10 Unique Small Dinosaurs [+ 4 Interesting FAQs About Them]

Stock photo of small plastic toy dinosaurs standing on a wooden table

Source by: Pexels

Have you ever wondered how scientists determine a dinosaur’s size? Science Daily shares two important techniques how a dinosaur’s length and weight are estimated.

  • Bone scaling method
  • 3D reconstruction images of what the dinosaur looked like

Interesting, right? In this article, we’ll get to know Mesozoic Era species that scientists were able to identify and most people often don’t think about — small dinosaurs. 

These even look like “mini-me” versions of giants like the Tyrannosaurus rex and Triceratops you’ve seen in Jurassic Park. We’ve got an FAQ section at the end too! So make sure to read ’til the end.

Let’s dive right in!

A List of 10 Unique Small Dinosaur Species 

Two small toy dinosaurs lying on a white floor

Source by: Pexels

Characteristics that made the smallest dinosaurs stand out were their size and the way they walked. Tiny dinosaurs used their hind limbs to run fast for long periods of time.

The University of Alberta explains the dinosaur’s tail had “big, leg-powering muscles“. These muscles helped them get around their habitat using their hind legs. 

On the other hand, some dinosaur species like the sauropods and ceratopsians, walked on four feet (quadrupedalism). Paleontologists believe that this is a pattern common to dinosaurs with bigger body sizes. 

Amazing insights, aren’t they? These will help you appreciate the dinosaurs and their images below. Let’s check them out!

#1 Bambiraptor

Graphic art of a brown feathered dinosaur

Source by: PaleoEquii

  • Scientific Name: Bambiraptor feinbergi, “Bambi thief”
  • Time Period: 84 to 71 million years ago (MYA, Late Cretaceous)
  • Natural Environment: Montana, USA’s ancient plains
  • Dinosaur Size: 3 to 4.3 feet; 2 to 5 kgs
  • Food: small prehistoric reptiles and mammals

The Bambiraptor is part of a group of feathered dinosaurs called “dromaeosaurs”. This dinosaur group and modern birds have a close relationship. 

Similar physical features with today’s birds are hollow bones and feathers. But the Bambiraptor didn’t have the ability to fly because the length of its arms wasn’t enough to support flight.

#2 Compsognathus

Some Compsognathus are walking on the ground

Source by: ThoughtCo

  • Scientific Name: Compsognathus longipes, “elegant jaw”
  • Time Period: 145 to 140 MYA (Late Jurassic)
  • Natural Environment: a tropical group of islands bordered by the Tethys Sea (prehistoric Europe)
  • Size: 2 to 4.7 feet; 0.32 to 3.5 kgs
  • Food: small animals like lizards and bugs

The Bambiraptor is part of a group of feathered dinosaurs called “dromaeosaurs”. This dinosaur group and modern birds have a close relationship. 

Similar physical features with today’s birds are hollow bones and feathers. But the Bambiraptor didn’t have the ability to fly because the length of its arms wasn’t enough to support flight.

#3 Dilong

Skeleton of a short dinosaur on display

Source by: WehaveaTrex

  • Scientific Name: Dilong paradoxus, “emperor dragon”
  • Time Period: 126 MYA (Early Cretaceous)
  • Natural Environment: forests in ancient Liaoning, China
  • Size: 5.24 feet; 10 kgs
  • Food: small animals like mammals, birds, and lizards

Looking for a mini-me of the T. rex and a dinosaur as tall as humans? The Dilong paradoxus is your best bet. Discovered in 2004, it’s one of the world’s primitive tyrannosaurs and also one of the smallest ones known.

What makes its discovery fascinating is how evidence of protofeathers was found on its skeleton. In light of this, paleontologists suggest that tyrannosaurs may then have been covered not just by scales but feathers too. These feathers helped dinosaurs manage their body temperatures.

#4 Europasaurus 

Illustration of small long neck dinosaurs in a forest

Source by: Gerhard Boeggemann

  • Name: Europasaurus holgeri, “Europe lizard”
  • Time Period: 154 to 151 MYA (Late Jurassic)
  • Natural Environment: ancient Germany’s plains
  • Size: 20 feet; 8,000 kg
  • Food: prehistoric leafy greens

Can you imagine a Brontosaurus only the size of an ox? It’s hard at first but you’ll see what we mean when you get to know the Europasaurus.

Scientists attribute the Europasaurus’ size to island dwarfism. This happens when animals adapt to the limitations of their environment.

The Europasaurus probably lived life on an island that wasn’t big enough to support the giants of the sauropod family. This may have then led to the Europasaurus to evolve up to moderate body sizes only.

#5 Gasparinisaurus

A feathered gasparinisaurus is walking on the ground with a dark sky

Source by: DeviantArt

  • Name: Gasparinisaura cincosaltensis, “Gasparini’s lizard”
  • Time Period: 83 million years ago (Late Cretaceous)
  • Natural Environment: prehistoric South America
  • Size: 5.6 feet; 13 kg
  • Food: conifers, ginkgos

Can you imagine finding over 100 stones inside a dinosaur’s stomach? That’s what greeted scientists when they discovered the gastroliths in the Gasparinosaura’s fossils.

This tiny dino was a fast herbivorous creature that’s one of the earliest known iguanodonts. It would make a pretty cute dinosaur puppet too, wouldn’t it?

#6 Homalocephale

A grey homalocephale is walking on the ground

Source by: DeviantArt

  • Name: Homalocephale calathocercos, “even head”
  • Time Period: 70 MYA (Late Cretaceous)
  • Natural Environment: Mongolia’s ancient grasslands
  • Size: 5.9 feet; 43 kg
  • Food: prehistoric plants

The Homalocephale were thick-headed dinosaurs whose heads had a characteristically flat shape. This is in contrast to other Pachycephalosaurs that had dome-shaped heads. Their quirky looks make them an interesting dinosaur costume to rock. How about going for it this year?

Another interesting feature is its wide pelvis. Paleontologists suggest that its broadness could be because it gave birth to live young or that it helped protect the dinosaur’s internal organs during fights.

#7 Mei long

Graphic art of a brown feathered dinosaur

Source by: Matt Martyniuk

  • Name: Mei long, “sleeping dragon”
  • Time Period: 125 MYA (Early Cretaceous)
  • Natural Environment: Liaoning, Mongolia’s ancient coniferous forests surrounded by volcanoes
  • Size: 1.75 feet
  • Food: small insects and lizards

Have you heard of a dinosaur only the size of a duck? The Mei long is one such tiny dinosaur species. This little creature’s fossil was discovered in a sleeping pose like a bird. The paleontologists who found it say that it may have died from poisonous fumes coming from the volcanoes.

#8 Microraptor

Graphic art of two black feathered dinosaurs

Source by: Science News

  • Name: Microraptor zhaoianus, “small plunderer”
  • Time Period: 125 to 122 MYA (Early Cretaceous)
  • Natural Environment: Liaoning, Mongolia’s prehistoric forests
  • Size: 2.53 feet; 1 kg
  • Food: small mammals and lizards

Having four wings is one of the unique traits the Microraptor is best known for aside from looking like an awesome bird. It had a pair each on its hindlimbs and forelimbs. Its feathers may have dragged on the ground as it stood.

The Natural History Museum (NHM) shares that guided flight may have been one of the Microraptor’s capabilities. It’s one of the world’s smallest dinosaur species too.

It also has two more described species called the M. gui and M. hanqingi in addition to M. zhaoianus. But these described skeletons are all actually the same species.

#9 Mymoorapelta

Graphic art of a blue-headed brown dinosaur beside a woman

Source by: Kathy Neenan

  • Name: Mymoorapelta maysi, “Shield of Mygatt-Moore”
  • Time Period: 155 to 150 MYA (Late Jurassic Period)
  • Natural Environment: Colorado, USA’s Morrison Formation
  • Size: around 9 feet
  • Food: ancient shrubs

The Mymoorapelta can get lost in the shadows of other famous ankylosaurs. But if you’d look closer, you’ll find that its discovery is quite important. 

Why? Because this animal is one of the known primitive ankylosaurs. This gave scientists a glimpse of how ankylosaurs diversified when its fossil was found.  Interestingly, it doesn’t have a club on its tail.

#10 Suskityrannus

A grey fossil of a small dinosaur in the museum

Source by: Kumiko

  • Name: Suskityrannus hazelae, “coyote tyrant”
  • Time Period: 93 to 89 MYA (Late Cretaceous)
  • Natural Environment: coastal area with forests in ancient New Mexico
  • Size: 3.3 feet; 20 to 40 kg
  • Food: small animals

Here’s another mini version of the T. rex, aptly nicknamed the “mini rex” by Live Science. This theropod had a bigger brain size compared to the rest of its body, likely had feathers and an “arctometatarsalian” foot. 

The smallest dinosaurs are often noticed for their size and also for their importance to understanding evolution. Just like how the Suskityrannus helped scientists understand tyrannosaur development.

The millions of years old fossil of this species showed characteristic tyrannosaur features. Features like a wide mouth and a foot that’s able to absorb physical shock despite being small were seen.

Interesting FAQs About the World's Smallest Dinosaurs

Small plastic dinosaurs standing on a white background

Source by: Pexels

Your new learnings may have created a brighter spark in your curiosity about tiny dinosaurs. Take a look at these FAQs and learn even more. Or better yet, see your burning questions answered.

#1 Were There Any Small Dinosaurs?

Yes! Good examples are dinosaurs like Compsognathus longipes and Microraptor zhaoianus. Other species to consider are dinosaurs from the Early Jurassic and Triassic periods.

#2 What is the Smallest Dinosaur in the Whole World?

The smallest dinosaur in the whole world is the Oculudentavis naga according to National Geographic. This animal lived 100 million years ago and was only the size of a hummingbird.

#3 What is the Smallest Carnivorous Dinosaur?

The smallest carnivorous dinosaur is the Hesperonychus elizabethae according to the University of Alberta. This tiny creature possibly had a diet of baby dinos and small mammals. It was only as large as a house cat, ran on two legs, and had a weight of only around 2 kg.

#4 What is Smaller Than a Velociraptor?

A dinosaur smaller than a Velociraptor is the Zhongjianosaurus yangi. It weighed as light as 0.31 kg and grew to a length of 2.3 feet only. This small dino lived 125 MYA during the Early Cretaceous period.

Small Dinosaurs - Tiny But Mighty Prehistoric Creatures

A cute baby dinosaur is walking beside a river with its mother

Source by: SciTechDally

Who knew such minuscule sizes could bring clarity to dinosaur development, growth, and overall science? That’s nothing short of amazing.

So if you’re thinking about what species to add to your puppet or animatronic collection, even the small dinos would make awesome animatronic dinosaurs.

We hope you had fun learning as much as we did! See you at our next blog post.

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