Fun Protoavis Facts For Kids

Moumita Dutta
Nov 29, 2022 By Moumita Dutta
Originally Published on Nov 30, 2021
Edited by Luca Demetriou
Protoavis facts are extremely interesting to read.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 7.5 Min

Genus Protoavis is an extinct group of avian dinosaurs belonging to the Protoavidae family of class Aves, which contains a single species, Protoavis Texensis. Its origins can be traced back to the late Triassic norian period from fossilized deposits found in a dockum group quarry near Texas, USA.

The term 'Protoavis' translates to 'first bird', whereas, 'Texensis' refers to the type locality. Thus, the combined term literally means 'first bird from Texas'.

The discovery of the species was credited to Sankar Chatterjee of Texas Tech University, who described the specimen as the most primitive avian type based on the age of the fossil (dated approximately 210 million years ago).

The recovered fossils support a strong claim regarding the origin of birds and from two partial specimens, Protoavis Texensis is viewed as the missing piece in the dinosaur-bird evolutionary link.

If you like this article about Protoavis, do not forget to check out Savannasaurus facts and Scelidosaurus facts to discover and learn various lesser-known facts about them.

Protoavis Interesting Facts

How do you pronounce 'Protoavis '?

The noun 'Protoavis' packs four syllables together and correspondingly, the paired up phonemes sound like pro-toe-ey-vis. It is much easier to pronounce than Phthinosuchus, which has a double-dipthong spelling.

What type of dinosaur was a Protoavis?

Protoavis ( first bird), belonging to the Protoavidae family of class Aves is an extinct group of carnivorous avian dinosaurs.

The fossil remains, partly from the skull and an incomplete skeletal structure, were arguable of a Triassic bird that lived about 75 million years before the Archaeopteryx, which is considered to be the first and oldest bird by many paleontologists.

The fossils were first discovered by Sankar Chatterjee and his group of students, who described the specimen as the most primitive ancestor of modern birds.

In which geological period did the Protoavis roam the earth?

It is estimated that the Protoavis inhabited the earth during the norian stage of the late triassic period, about 210 million years ago. The assumption that this species predated the Archaeopteryx by some 75 million years is quite groundbreaking as it changes everything pertaining to the origin of birds.

When did the Protoavis become extinct?

The taxonomic status of this dinosaur species is still very hypothetical. Hence, it is unknown when exactly their extinction spiraled. The only known remains of the bird-like dinosaur date approximately 21o years ago.

Where did a Protoavis live?

Protoavis fossils were preserved over time in the Dockum group, which is a late Triassic geological group consisting of the Bull Canyon formation, the Cooper Canyon formation, and three other geological structures.

Two partial skeletons, the holotype TTU P 9200 and the paratype TT U P 9201 were recovered from a quarry in the Cooper Canyon formation which is a geological formation in Texas, USA.

What was a Protoavis‘s habitat?

The Protoavis may have lived in a terrestrial habitat. All the known fossils of this Mesozoic bird were contained in the Dockum group of the Cooper Canyon Formation hence, it is likely that their distribution was exclusively localized in a Triassic river delta near what is now Texas, USA.

The exact climatic condition they preferred living in is not known.

Who did a Protoavis live with?

Mass death sites are known to be a vague indicator of dinosaur sociability, however, in this case the bones recovered from the site were mainly from various predator species, with only two being partial skeletons of the Protoavis. Therefore, no conclusive statements can be made regarding the bird's degree of sociability.

How long did a Protoavis live?

How long a Protoavis would have lived cannot be concluded with accuracy due to the lack of any substantial data. In fact, there is no unanimity regarding the lifespan of dinosaurs (carnivorous or otherwise). However, by mapping the lifespan of their descendant birds the estimated lifespan of carnivorous dinosaurs is expected to be around the 20-30 year mark.

How did they reproduce?

It is known that dinosaurs (including Protoavis) were oviparous and reproduced by laying eggs. It is also speculated that a dinosaur, by virtue of sharing a common ancestry with birds, had a reproductive opening called the 'cloaca'. However, soft tissues are seldom fossilized and hence, any more information about their reproductive lives is evidentially absent.

Protoavis Fun Facts

What did a Protoavis look like?

The single Protoavis specimen was first described by Sankar Chatterjee, a professor of Texas Tech University, as the most primitive avian type, dating some 75 million years before the Archaeopteryx.

The assumption, although, is based on fragmentary fossils, which resemble a more bird-like skeletal structure.

The triassic species, characterized by bipedalism and a small foot-long physical mold, is believed to have displayed certain avian traits including a beak-like mouth, teeth on the jaw tips, eyes on the anterior of the skull, and the presence of over quill knobs around the shoulder girdle.

The presence of an avian skull was an evolutionary mechanism for efficient feeding and neurosensory specializations thus, giving this Mesozoic bird a comparatively larger brain.

The flight capacity of this species is considered to have been in the minimal range, enabling the creature to fly only high up as a tree.

The fact that this avian species had feathers is only speculative and it is more unlikely that their feathers had blue pigmentation, as depicted in many illustrations.

However, any color, resembling shades of melanin could be a possibility.

Protoavis facts tell about the avian dinosaurs of the USA.

How many bones did a Protoavis have?

The skeletal composition cannot be determined accurately as much of the evidence is based solely on two partial skeletons.

How did they communicate?

The pattern of communication is not known due to a lack of specified research on the subject. However, it is possible that a predatory dinosaur like the Protoavis, which had eyes located at the front of its skull, was more vision-oriented and relied on physical gestures to communicate.

While fossils are indicative of the fact that dinosaurs engaged in communication, it is difficult to guess how advanced their verbal vocalizations were.

How big was a Protoavis?

From Chatterjee's interpretation of the holotype, the Triassic bird is estimated to have stood 13 in (35.6 cm) tall and weighed between 4.4-6.6 lb (2-3 kg). In other words, it was almost the size of a pheasant.

Whether or not the animal existed is still speculative, however, the confirmation of its existence can explain when birds began to diverge from dinosaurs.

How fast could a Protoavis move?

Any data regarding the locomotion abilities of the Protoavis could not be obtained due to the lack of any specified research.

How much did a Protoavis weigh?

It is estimated that the Protoavis' weight ranged between 4.4-6.6 lb (2-3 kg).

What were the male and female names of the species?

There are no separate names assigned to the male and female counterparts. They can simply be referred to as male and female Protoavis.

What would you call a baby Protoavis?

Dinosaurs reproduced by laying eggs therefore, a baby Protoavis would likely be called a hatchling or a chick.

What did they eat?

Based on fossil records, it is likely that the Protoavis was a carnivorous avian dinosaur and its vertical beak was possibly a mechanism for rapid meat-eating. However, it is arguable whether the supposed animal was an early theropod, a chimera, or in fact, a bird that lived in the Triassic period.

How aggressive were they?

Their level of aggression is still unclear but, it can be assumed that the Protoavis' vertical beak, with teeth planted in its jaw tip was indeed capable of inducing some damage. However, they were certainly less intimidating in comparison to a 6 ft (1.8 m) long Velociraptor.

Did you know...

Sankar Chatterjee is credited not only with the discovery of the mesozoic bird (Protoavis) but also, the Technosaur and some other dinosaur species.

What is the controversy about Protoavis?

Chatterjee's reconstruction of the Protoavis as a late triassic bird without any substantial fossil data establishes a point of criticism.

In general, the hollow bones of birds do not fossilize properly and in most cases, cannot be preserved over time. Therefore the original fossil, in its current withered state intervenes the path to perform any valuable research.

Besides, the issue pertaining to whether the reconstructed fossils were a mere disruptive innovation in the field of paleontology or an actual discovery is often a point of dispute.

The argument that the discovered fossils were a mix of bones from different species of dinosaur is a plausible theory and renders the species' taxonomic status as 'chimeric'. It is possible that the bones discovered were rather disarticulated fossils, likely deposited by a flash flood.

Therefore, the origin of birds, though closely linked with the evolution of dinosaur, still remains a mystery and can only be accurately explained with the discovery of newer fossils.

What physical features are shared by modern day birds and dinosaurs?

Legitimate bird-like fossils date at least a 150 million years back and by virtue of sharing many common features with their carnivorous theropod ancestors, birds can rightfully be called the descendants of dinosaurs. Bipedalism, feathered bodies, hollow bones and skeletal similarities including in the neck, pubis, wrist, shoulder blade, breast bone, are only a few shared features.

Similar to extinct dinosaurs, birds continue to remain oviparous.

Evolution has rendered modern birds toothless and replaced their jaws with a beak. However, some of their carnivorous theropod ancestors did have a prominent jaw lined with a set of teeth.

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 Changyuraptor facts, or Zhenyuanlong fun facts for kids.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable stomping dinosaur coloring pages.

Main image by MWAK

Second image by Chatterjee

We Want Your Photos!
We Want Your Photos!

We Want Your Photos!

Do you have a photo you are happy to share that would improve this article?
Email your photos

More for You

See All

Written by Moumita Dutta

Bachelor of Arts specializing in Journalism and Mass Communication, Postgraduate Diploma in Sports Management

Moumita Dutta picture

Moumita DuttaBachelor of Arts specializing in Journalism and Mass Communication, Postgraduate Diploma in Sports Management

A content writer and editor with a passion for sports, Moumita has honed her skills in producing compelling match reports and stories about sporting heroes. She holds a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management, Calcutta University, alongside a postgraduate diploma in Sports Management.

Read full bio >