Are you awestruck by prehistoric animals like dinosaurs? If so, we have the perfect present for you - the Graciliraptor from China.
The Graciliraptor was a small-sized theropod dinosaur with bird-like features and characteristics. The name Graciliraptor meaning graceful thief fits perfectly for the species. These dinosaurs were prevalent in the early Cretaceous age that lasted from 66-145 million years ago. The sole fossil of the Graciliraptor has been excavated in Beipiao, China. Though the complete skeleton has not been found yet, the excavated parts include ten partial tail vertebrae, entire fore and hind legs, and some teeth. Paleontologists Xu and Wang were the first to name Graciliraptor in 2004. Not much data is available on this graceful thief dinosaur, however, research is still ongoing.
If you find our content interesting and informative, do check out our other cool articles: Sinotyrannus and Crichtonsaurus facts.
The ideal way to pronounce Graciliraptor is 'Gray-sil-e-rap-tor'.
The Graciliraptor lujiatunensis is a species of theropod dinosaur that belonged to the Dromaeosauridae family.
Scientists assume that the Graciliraptor lujiatunensis was a dromaeosaurid that roamed on our planet during the early Cretaceous period. If we take a glance at the geographical timescale of our planet, then we will find that the early Cretaceous period extended from 66-145 million years ago. Therefore, these dinosaurs lived during that geographic timescale of the earth.
The Graciliraptor lujiatunensis was a dinosauria theropoda from the early Cretaceous age. Hence, we can assume that this species died during the same age. In general, scientists have found out that each particular species of dinosaur lived for at least 10 million years. We can apply this generalization to the Graciliraptor as well.
The fossil remains of the Graciliraptor lujiatunensis have been found in the Liaoning Province of China. The exact spot from where the dromaeosaurid fossil was excavated was Beipiao, a city in China. While this dinosaur from the early cretaceous age flourished in China, some of them might have also been found in parts of Europe. Before the dawn of the Cretaceous period, the supercontinent Pangea split into two other continents, Laurussia and Gondwana land. It has been assumed that Laurussia formed North America, Europe, and certain parts of Asia, while the Gondwana land formed Africa, Australia, South America, and India. Thus, if we assume that these dinosaurs lived primarily in Laurussia, after the split of the continents of the modern age, some fossil remains of these dinosaurs can also be found in parts of Europe.
Since very little data about the Graciliraptor is available to us, it is extremely hard to pinpoint the exact habitat and conditions of this dinosauria theropoda. However, we can make an attempt to understand the habitat by looking into the climatic conditions of the planet during that period. Since the Graciliraptor is a dinosaur from the early Cretaceous period, the climatic conditions of that age will give us a perfect description of the habitat conditions of that time. The temperature and humidity was much higher as compared to that of the present day. This high temperature and humidity facilitated a dense growth of trees and vegetation. Back then, the polar caps had no ice sheet.
Due to the lack of substantial data about this dinosaur from the early Cretaceous period, not much is known about the social life of Graciliraptor lujiatunensis. However, in general, dromaeosaurids were social animals who hunted in packs. Pieces of evidence in the form of fossils have shown that few species of dinosaurs lived in herds where they traveled, hunted together. Some species on the other hand preferred to lead a solitary life.
The exact lifespan of the Graciliraptor is currently unknown. The lifespan of dinosaurs, based on their species, types, and sizes differed from one another. For example, the ancient gigantic herbivorous dinosaurs had a mammoth lifespan of around 300 years, while the latter large carnivores had an average lifespan of almost 100 years. The smaller-sized dromaeosaurid had a lesser lifespan. So, we can assume that the small-sized dinosauria theropoda might have had a lifespan of around 20-30 years.
Like most modern-age reptiles, new dinosaurs were born from eggs. It is believed modern-age birds and reptiles have all evolved from the dinosaurs, and thus, their mating style and rituals like courtship behavior might have been similar. Dinosaurs were aggressive animals who were extremely territorial in nature. Mating rituals in the form of a fight among males to get the attention of the female dinosaur might have also been common. All the eggs were internally fertilized. After the eggs were laid, they were most like incubated.
There's no exact description of this dinosauria theropoda since the entire skeleton hasn't been discovered yet. The Graciliraptor fossil remains that have been excavated depict a bird-like dinosaur that had maxilla with teeth, almost complete fore and hind legs, along with some parts of the vertebrae of the tail portion.
The exact number of bones in the body of Graciliraptor lujiatunensis cannot be ascertained because the full skeleton of the Graciliraptor is yet to be unearthed and data obtained from fossils cannot give the right answer.
Paleontologists think that dinosaurs were social creatures who communicated with one another via distinct calls and sounds. The means of communication was restricted to vocal sounds and body signs. Vocal sounds involved cracking or croaking-like sounds, while body signs showing aggression, submission, and fear were expected to be common among these ancient lizards.
The Graciliraptor size was a tiny in comparison to other dinosaurs that belonged to their family (within the Theropoda sub-order). As per the fossils, the size of this graceful thief was around 3 ft (91.44 cm) in length. Tsaagan had an average length of around 6.5 ft (198 cm), and it was almost twice the size of the Graciliraptor.
The exact speed at which the Graciliraptor moved is not known to us yet since there isn't enough data about this dinosaur species, except what can be derived from fossils. However, being carnivores and part of the Theropoda family, they might have had a considerably fast speed for hunting and escaping predators. The lightweight body formation of this dromaeosaurid might have added to the advantage of their fast speed.
Since the Graciliraptor was such a small-sized dromaeosaurid, it can be expected that their weight is likely much less in comparison to other dinosaurs of the same family. The presumed weight of this dromaeosaurid was around 3.3 lb (1.5 kg).
No distinct names have been assigned to males and females of this dromaeosaurid.
Since dinosaurs hatch from eggs, they are known as hatchlings. Therefore, a baby Graciliraptor would be known as a Graciliraptor hatchling.
Going by the teeth structure of their fossils and the dinosaur family's traits (being Theropoda), Graciliraptor's were assumed to be carnivorous animals. These bird-like dinosaurs can be presumed to have a protein-rich diet. The diet may consist of small animals, birds and smaller dinosaurs.
Carnivorous dinosaurs or dinosaurs belonging to the suborder Theropoda were usually aggressive in nature. However, looking at the size of Graciliraptors, they might not have been extremely aggressive.
As this dinosaur had many bird-like characteristics, it gave a valuable insight into the evolution of troodontids and avialan birds.
The name Graciliraptor means 'graceful thief'. Paleontologists Xu Xing and Wang Xiaoling named this dinosaur. Its name is divided into two parts - 'gracilis' that has Latin origin and 'raptor' meaning graceful thief. It is a therapod.
These dinosaurs, belonging to the Theropoda sub-order, were carnivorous which could be seen in their teeth, and their diet mainly consisted of other small animals and invertebrates.
Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly dinosaur facts for everyone to discover! For more relatable content, check out these epanterias facts, or paranthodon facts.
You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable dinosaur skeleton coloring pages.
Main image by Funk Monk.
Second image by Karkemish.