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263

Coelophysis

OLogy Series
extinct animal
card
263

Coelophysis

OLogy Series
extinct animal

One of the earlier dinosaurs to appear on Earth was Coelophysis. It was a small, but skilled hunter that lived during the Late Triassic Period over 200 million years ago. Coelophysis was also one of the first therapods, a group of two-legged, mostly carnivorous dinosaurs that would later include hunters like the Tyrannosaurus rex. Of course, Coelophysis was much smaller than T. rex-but also probably much faster.

A Large Deposit
Much of what scientists know
about Coelophysis can be traced back to 1947. This is when a group of paleon- tologists from the American Museum of Natural History discovered hundreds of skeletons of Coelophysis at Ghost Ranch, New Mexico.
It was one of the largest dinosaur deposits ever found!
It held skeletons of Coelophysis adults, young adults, and juveniles, providing important clues about how these early dinosaurs grew. But how did they all end up in one place? Scientists believe they were quickly buried together in a flash flood. Over time, more bones provided more clues about this little dinosaur and what made it such a successful predator. Its lower
leg bones indicated a long stride, able to run up to 25 miles per hour. Its front limbs had three clawed fingers for catching and holding prey. And the skull’s large eye sockets suggest that Coelophysis had large eyes--and sharp vision.

Scientists believe Coelophysis hunted:

alone

in pairs

in large packs

Are you right?

Correct!

Scientists believe Coelophysis lived and hunted in large packs. One reason is the massive accumulation of Coelophysis skeletons found at Ghost Ranch, New Mexico.

Scientists believe Coelophysis was a carnivore by studying its:

teeth

stomach remains

both of these

Are you right?

Correct!

Coelophysis has many small, pointed teeth. In addition, the bones of small reptiles have been found in its fossilized remains.

Sterling Nesbitt, Paleontologist

“It’s fascinating that even these very early dinosaurs had bones much like those of birds.”

Coelophysis had hollow bones.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fact

These hollow bones made the Coelophysis relatively light-perhaps another reason it was so fast. In fact, Coelophysis means “hollow form.”

Coelophysis "hollow form"
Locality found:Ghost Ranch, New Mexico
Age: Late Triassic, 220-200 mya
Size: 6-10 feet long
Diet: carnivore (meat)
Characteristics: Small body, with a long neck, two long legs, and sharp claws
Significance: One of the earliest known carnivorous dinosaurs.

Image credits: Sean Murtha; Sterling Nesbitt: courtesy of AMNH.