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Temporal range: Early Cretaceous, 124.6 Ma
Skeletal reconstruction of known material
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Clade: Dinosauria
Order: Saurischia
Suborder: Theropoda
Clade: Oviraptorosauria
Genus: Protarchaeopteryx
Ji & Ji, 1997
  • P. robusta Ji & Ji, 1997

Protarchaeopteryx (meaning "before Archaeopteryx") is a genus of turkey-sized feathered theropod dinosaur from China.[1] Known from the Jianshangou bed of the Yixian Formation, it lived during the early Aptian age of the Early Cretaceous, approximately 124.6 million years ago.[2] It was probably an herbivore or omnivore, although its hands were very similar to those of small carnivorous dinosaurs. It appears to be one of the most basal members of the Oviraptorosauria, closely related to or synonymous with Incisivosaurus.[3]


Protarchaeopteryx size, compared to a human.

Protarchaeopteryx had long legs, and could have been a quick runner. It had well-developed, vaned feathers extended from a relatively short tail; the hands were long and slender, and had three fingers with sharp, curved claws. Its bones were hollow and bird-like, and it possessed a wishbone.[4] At around 1 metre (3.3 ft) in length, it would have been larger than Archaeopteryx.[4] Protarchaeopteryx also had symmetrical feathers on its tail. Since modern birds that have symmetrical feathers are flightless, and the skeletal structure of Protarchaeopteryx would not support flapping flight, it is assumed that it was flightless as well.[5] It has been suggested that it could have had an arboreal lifestyle, jumping from tree limbs and using its forelimbs for a form of parachuting.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ji, Q., and Ji, S. (1997). "Protarchaeopterygid bird (Protarchaeopteryx gen. nov.)—fossil remains of archaeopterygids from China." Chinese Geology, 238: 38–41.
  2. ^ Zhou, Z. (2006). "Evolutionary radiation of the Jehol Biota: chronological and ecological perspectives." Geological Journal, 41: 377-393.
  3. ^ Paul G.S. (2010), The Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs, Princeton University Press, p. 146–145
  4. ^ a b Palmer, D., ed. (1999). The Marshall Illustrated Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals. London: Marshall Editions. p. 107. ISBN 1-84028-152-9. 
  5. ^ Ji, Q., and Ji, S. (1997). "A Chinese archaeopterygian, Protarchaeopteryx gen. nov." Geological Science and Technology (Di Zhi Ke Ji), 238: 38-41. Translated By Will Downs Bilby Research Center Northern Arizona University January, 2001
  6. ^ Currie P.J. (2004), Feathered dragons: studies on the transition from dinosaurs to birds, Indiana University Press, p. 184, plate 16.

External links.[edit]