Protarchaeopteryx (first Archaeopteryx) is a genus of Theropod dinosaurs from China, and lived during the Early Cretaceous period. Protarchaeopteryx had feathers but was flightless, and it had long legs, which possibly made it a good runner. The bones were hollow and bird-like, and it had a wishbone just like a turkey! Around 3.3 ft (1 m) in length, it also had features such as symmetrical feathers on its tail similar to a feathered brush. It was probably an herbivore or omnivore as the forelimbs were also long and slender, with sharp claws adapted for grasping fish, small animals, and plants. Protarchaeopteryx is considered to be more primitive than Archaeopteryx, making it a non-avian Theropod dinosaur rather than a true avian bird. It has a one-of-a-kind skeletal structure; the symmetrical feathers were not useful for flying but served another purpose. Read on to find out what it was!
The word Protarchaeopteryx is pronounced pro-tar-key-op-ter-ix'.
Protarchaeopteryx (first Archaeopteryx) is a genus of Theropod dinosaurs from China. The scientific classification of this species is: Kingdom: Animalia, Phylum: Chordata, Class: Sauropsida, Superorder: Dinosauria, Order: Saurischia, Suborder: Theropoda, and Infraorder: Oviraptorosauria.
Protarchaeopteryx robusta dinosaurs lived during the Early Cretaceous period approximately 122-135 million years ago
These dinosaurs lived during the Late Cretaceous period in Mongolia and went extinct during the K-T mass extinction nearly 65 million years ago.
The fossil remains of this flightless dinosaur were discovered in China thus revealing that Protarchaeopteryx robusta occurred in China, Asia. The fossil was found near Yianxin, of the Liaoning Province in sediment from an ancient lake bed. Protarchaeopteryx is more primitive than Archaeopteryx, the earliest-known bird.
The habitat of this species included forests, mountainous regions, riversides, and near floodplains.
The social behavior of these creatures is unknown. Many theories suggest that they lived in small-sized groups similar to some present-day birds, while other theories suggest that they were solitary bird-like dinosaurs.
Whilst it is not known exactly how long each individual Protarchaeopteryx lived for, it is known that they lived in the early Aptian age of the Early Cretaceous period, approximately 124.6 million years ago
Just like every other Theropod species, they reproduced via sexual reproduction. Males would release their sperm inside females, who would later lay fertilized eggs containing developing dinosaur embryos in nests that were built by digging burrows in the soil. The eggs were enormous and had a hard layered shell. The eggs most probably were amniotic, meaning the fetus was covered by a membrane which helped in its protection as well as supplying oxygen and other nutrients to the fetus.
The recovered Protarchaeopteryx dinosaur fossil remains prove that some dinosaurs had feathers. The well-preserved rock that holds the fossil provided concrete evidence showing many intricate details and clear proof of feathers being present among these prehistoric creatures. However, the type of feathers on this dinosaur is completely different from those on modern birds that engage in flight. This dinosaur did not have flight feathers, as the skeletal structure of Protarchaeopteryx would not support flapping flight.
Several paleontologists, researchers, and scientists believe that the purpose of these feathers was to keep the dinosaur warm and had some role in attracting mates during the breeding season. Protarchaeopteryx had a small, light, and toothless skull supported by a slender and very flexible neck, a pointy beak, long legs, and three-toed feet, similar to an ostrich's feet, with well-developed feathers projecting from a fairly short tail. The hands or arms were long and slender and had three fingers with sharp, curved claws. Its bones were hollow and bird-like, and it possessed a wishbone that was 3.3 ft (1 m) in length. Some paleontologists suggest that it could be larger than Archaeopteryx.
The holotype and only known specimen of a Protarchaeopteryx dinosaur is NGMC 2125 (a partial skeleton). This fossil found in China included a partial skeleton with leg bones. Evidence shows that they had well-developed feathers, a relatively short tail, long and slender arms, sharp, curved claws. The bones were hollow, similar to a modern-day bird.
Communication among prehistoric creatures is still a mystery but many scientists over the past decades have come up with several theories that suggest possible ways these animals communicated. Some put forth a theory of vocalizations, and that these ferocious beasts engaged in dialogue by producing calls, hoots, cracking sounds, body movements, and symbolic love calls during the mating season.
A Protarchaeopteryx robusta grew up to 3 ft (1 m) in length, and 2 ft (7 m) in height.
Members of this species had feathers on their arms, but could not fly. They were small, fast runners covered with primitive, symmetrical, and flightless feathers.
An adult Protarchaeopteryx robusta weighed around 10 lb (4 kg).
The female dinosaurs are called Saura, whereas males are called Saurus.
Since these feathered dinosaurs are hatched from eggs, they are called hatchlings or nestlings, and since, they bear a close resemblance to birds a young juvenile could be referred to as a chick.
These feathered dinosaurs were primarily omnivores but some suggest that they were herbivores. Although their hands were very similar to those of small carnivorous dinosaurs, they are considered to be one of the most basal members of the Oviraptorosauria stem line, and closely related to Incisivosaurus, or a taxon slightly less closely related to birds.
To explain how aggressive they were, let's put them against a member of the same family - Protarchaeopteryx vs raptor. In this fight, the raptor would win, as is considered one of the most ferocious predators, but they were incredibly fast and among the most intelligent of dinosaurs.
This feathered dinosaur is a member of the raptor family that includes Velociraptor, which lived approximately 71-75 million years ago during the latter part of the Cretaceous Period.
Features of the leg indicate that this dinosaur stood erect and walked with a parasagittal gait, swinging the limbs backward and forwards, as opposed to rotating them.
The skeletal structure of Protarchaeopteryx and its symmetrical feathers would not support flapping flight, so it is assumed that it was a flightless dinosaur. It has been suggested that it most likely had an arboreal lifestyle, and jumped between tree branches using its forelimbs.
Protarchaeopteryx is based on a remarkable fossil preserved in the fine-grained stone from Liaoning, China. It finally put to rest doubts and debates about dinosaurs being feathered. The rock that holds the fossil displays several features and tiny details on which the feathers are seen clearly. However, the feathers on this dinosaur are not the same kind as seen on modern birds that fly, but are symmetrical and not flight feathers. It could be approximately 124.6 million years old, as that is the time when Protarchaeopteryx lived.
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 Paronychodon fun facts or Szechuanosaurus facts for kids pages.
You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable Protarchaeopteryx coloring pages.
Main image by Conty and second image by Karkemish.