Dinosaurs are still a mystery despite being studied for years. It is hard to say what they looked like in real life. The major reason is the damaged fossils. Scientists had a hard time examining and inferring details about the animal based on this. Only a few undamaged fossils of species have been discovered. One such specimen that has piqued the interest of several scientists and paleontologists is the Scipionyx samniticus from the Early Cretaceous period. This is because their fossil was well preserved and contained remains of many of their internal organs, blood vessels, and muscles. Even the soft tissue and bone tissue were intact which is very strange as it usually decays before the occurrence of mineral replacement. Just like most of the dinosaurs of this group Scipionyx resembles birds more than crocodiles. The discovery is truly a miracle story as it was initially discovered by Todesco an amateur paleontologist who thought the fossil belonged to birds and worked on the specimen by himself in his house. Luckily this was interrupted by Cristiano dal Sasso of the Natural History Museum of Milan and Marco Signore of the University of Naples Federico who decided that the remains were of an Italian dinosaur.
Keep reading to know more about Scipionyx height, Scipionyx egg, Scipionyx skeleton, and Scipionyx amazing facts. Once you have finished this article do check out our other articles on eustreptospondylus and Deltadromeus.
The well-preserved holotype was discovered by Giovanni Todesco, an amateur paleontologist in the year 1981 and is pronounced as 'shih-pee-oh-nicks' or 'ship-ee-oh-nicks'.
Scipionyx samniticus is a theropod dinosaur belonging to the Genus Scipionyx and compsognathids family. Theropods are a bunch of bipedal dinosaurs that generally belong to saurischian class dinosaurs. This group includes almost all of the huge dinosaurs that have been discovered so far. They are mainly distinguished by their hollow bones and three-toed limbs. Saurischians are closely related to birds and have a lot of bird-like features.
Scipionyx lived in the Pietraroja Formation of the Early Cretaceous period.
It most likely became extinct in the Cretaceous mass extinction. During this time period, an asteroid hit triggered a number of other catastrophic events, including wildfires and tsunamis, which would have resulted in habitat destruction and extinction. Scientists are still arguing whether this was the cause of their extinction or if they faced extinction prior to the K-Pg catastrophe.
Scipionyx lived in Southern Italy. Their well-preserved fossil and remains of internal organs were found near Naples.
Their fossil has been found in a marine environment. It is reported to have thrived in shallow lagoons. And, as the name implies, it favored the Mediterranean Sea regions.
They might have been a semi-solitary species that interacted with groups on occasion. Despite their exceptional hunting and evasion abilities, their size was a significant disadvantage that forced them to hunt in groups. For a while, juveniles stayed with the adult. They also came together during the mating seasons.
Scipionyx lived 113 million years ago. The exact lifespan of this animal is not computable.
It was oviparous, which means it reproduced by depositing eggs. It appears that the young were lavished with care since the fossil demonstrates the presence of bones of fish and lizards that would have been hard for the juvenile to obtain.
The holotype that was discovered belonged to a juvenile Scipionyx and was not very old, probably five weeks. As a result, determining the appearance of an adult from this is challenging. However, some features are said to be shared by both. This dinosaur was a small bipedal predator. Despite the size, it possessed a large skull. The horizontal rump mainly was to balance the tail. They had a thin elongated neck and a long lower jaw. From its other closely related dinosaurs it is suspected that this species might have been covered in feathers. The snout was pointed with a round tip, the fore and hind limbs were lengthy. Claws were sharp and curved. The skull of the juvenile is compared to the size of a human skull. Amidst the several bird-like features the digestive tract was the most revealing.
The holotype was that of a juvenile that was not fully developed. So it is not possible to know the exact number of bones. From what was available there were 10 cervical vertebrae, 13 dorsal vertebrae,9 tail vertebrae,12 pairs of dorsal ribs, ilium, ischium, and femur. Apart from this, there were several internal organs and soft tissues in the specimen. All of this was fossilized along with blood vessels, cartilages, and various other tissues in a limestone.
They would have communicated by emitting high-pitched growls, and their feathers would have played an important part in courting. There isn't much evidence to back up either of these assumptions and studies about their communication methods are still ambiguous.
From the fossil, it can be concluded that Scipionyx samniticus was a small theropod dinosaur that was around 6.5 ft (2 m) in length and 3.9 ft (1.2m) in height. It is 12 times taller than Mussaurus, which is the shortest dinosaur. The holotype belonged to a juvenile so it is possible that the body of the adult might have been even larger in real life.
They move at breakneck speeds. This was mostly due to the highly developed respiratory system, which allows them to perform fast without tiring. This theropod could save energy and stay on their feet for extended periods. It was fast enough to outrun all of its predators. The tiny height and extended legs aided in increasing speed even further.
The underdeveloped specimen, which belonged to a juvenile, would not have weighed much. The estimated weight is around 55-66 lb (25-30 kg).
These male and female species do not seem to have any specific names. They are generally known as Scipionyx.
A baby Scipionyx can be referred to as juvenile, hatchling, or chick.
Scipionyx samniticus was a meat-eater. From the bones and scales preserved in the digestive system and trachea, it is evident that the young ones fed on lizards and fish. The adults might have had some along with other small mammals. This theropod might have been easy prey to the large predators. It might have been hunted by dinosaurs that consume small dinosaurs like Ceresiosaurus.
It was not one of the calm dinosaurs. It was very aggressive and dangerous. It may have been tiny, but its hunting abilities compensated for its size. Scipionyx was a ruthless hunter. The sharp claws and strong teeth were not simply ornaments, they were put to use in dangerous combat.
Many of its internal organs are still intact in its body cavity since it has been well preserved.
This dinosaur's digestive tract was short yet broad.
The intact digestive system, soft tissue, bone tissue, and blood vessels made Scipionyx popular among scientists and paleontologists.
The specimen which was discovered was not smaller than the juveniles of Allosaurus.
Initially, studies concluded that the fossil might be a theropod perhaps a Microvenator. Later it was confirmed that they were compsognathids.
The genus name, Scipionyx, is derived from the Greek word onyx, which means claw, and refers to its razor-sharp claws. The first part is a reference to Scipio Africanus, the Roman army leader who defeated Hannibal. Scipionyx is reported to have possessed powerful claws like the general. Hence the name. The species name is taken from the Meditteranean sea where it formerly resided. The Latins referred to this location as Samnium, giving it the name Scipionyx samniticus. It was named by Cristiano Dal Sasso and Marco Signore in 1998.
It had around five teeth in front and a short branch of seven teeth behind it. The jaw bone was lower, indicating that it had a strong jaw. The teeth were also closely spaced. This overall configuration demonstrates that they had quite powerful teeth, and the jaw structure helped in amplifying the biting force.
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 Gasosaurus facts and Stokesosaurus facts for kids.
You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable Scipionyx coloring pages.
Image one by Conty.