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Coelophysis

Build & Characteristics

  • Coelophysis’ name means “hollow form” because of its hollow limb bones.
  • Coelophysis measured an average of 10 feet (3 meters) long and less than 4 feet tall, and weighed an average of just 50 pounds.
  • They had 3 digits on each hand, sharp jagged teeth and were very fast runners which came in handy when hunting for prey.
  • The hollow bones (much like modern birds) of Coelophysis helped them remain nimble and light on their feet. These dinosaurs also possessed a wishbone, one of the first dinosaurs to have been recorded having one.

History

  • Coelophysis roamed what is now the American West including Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico during the Triassic Period (210 million years ago).
  • Most scientists believe that Coelophysis was the first true dinosaur.
  • It had been thought that Coelophysis possibly ate their own young, but more studies showed they weren’t hatchlings, but instead another tiny dinosaur called archosaur.
  • Coelophysis had impeccable eyesight which may have made them nocturnal hunters, some scientist theorize they hunted in packs since many specimens are found together.
  • The environment Coelophysis would have experienced looked like the desert conditions of today, but more like modern Kenya without grasses since grass hadn’t evolved yet.

Discovery

  • The first Coelophysis specimens were discovered by Edwin H. Colbert in 1947.
  • Thousands of fossils of Coelophysis have been found in the Ghost Ranch Quarry in New Mexico. These fossils included all of the stages of life for this animal.
  • Coelophysis fossilized skeleton can be found at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.