Scipionyx was a carnivore (meat-eater) dinosaur that lived in
about 113 million years. It is known from a single
animal that was found about 30 miles (48 kilometers) northwest of what is today
the city of Naples.
The fossil juvenile Scipionyx
is just a few inches long, so there a number of uncertainties about the animal. These include
its exact scientific classification, and how big adults are - although they have been estimated
to have probably been about 6 feet (1.8 meters) long.
The fossil of Scipionyx is
however very important, because it is one of very few
fossils that contains
preserved internal organs (it is believed that these were preserved because the animal died
fell into and died in an oxygen-poor lagoon). These internal organs include muscles, liver, intestines
and parts of the animal's windpipe.
"Scipionyx" means "Scipio's claw". It is named after Scipione Breislak, the Italian geologist who write the first description of the formation where the fossil was subsequently found.
Scipionyx was a member of the Saurischia ("lizard-hipped") order of dinosaurs. What this means, is that although Scipionyx was not closely related to lizards, it did have similarly shaped pelvic bones.
Scipionyx was a Theropod - a member of a group of related bipedal dinosaurs that included the ancestors of birds (although Scipionyx was not itself an ancestor of birds).
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