Compsognathus is a genus of small theropod carnivores, with a name derived from the Greek 'kompsos', meaning 'elegant or 'dainty', and 'gnathos', meaning 'jaw'. These dinosaurs lived in the Late Jurassic in what is now Europe.Weighing between 0.83 and 3.5kg, Compsognathus would have relied on its quick reactions and high speed and manoeuvrability in order to catch its prey, which - unlike other dinosaurs - is well known due to fossil evidence of small lizards found in the stomachs of both known specimens.
Two Compsognathus specimens have been discovered in Europe. The first discovery, an almost complete skeleton, was found in Germany in 1859. The dinosaur was given the name Compsognathus longipes and described as a very small carnivore. A larger skeleton was discovered in France in 1971 - this specimen revealed that the German skeleton was likely that of a juvenile.
The area Compsognathus specimens have been found in would have at the time been a tropical, coastal environment. This is supported by fossil evidence of other aquatic animals like crustaceans. Compsognathus mainly preyed upon land-dwelling vertebrates.