Critter of the Week: Compsognathus

Meet Twig. He’s a lot more travel-sized, if you’re looking for a dinosaur that’s not a bird.  He makes up for his size by being extra friendly and huggable.



Twig may be small, but he’s not nearly as teeny as most “educational” sources would have you believe.  Almost all the dinosaur books I’ve come across claim this little guy as the smallest dinosaur. “As big as a chicken” is the phrase often used.

First off, chickens come in all different sizes, so it’s not a very good way to define size. 😉

Second, Twig would have you know he’s the size of a turkey, not a chicken (makes a big difference if you’re standing right next to it).  All those other reports are actually based off a German fossil of a juvenile compy, not an adult.  Another well-preserved fossil was discovered in France in the 1970’s, but paleontologists weren’t sure it was a compy until more recent years.

Twig doesn’t mind the confusion though.  He’s not really bothered by much as long as he can snatch a lizard or two out of the bushes. 🙂

Just for fun, here’s a picture of Jurassic Park’s Compsognathus.  This picture is from the Jurassic Park Wikia, but did not have any credit associated with it.  It looks like it was cut from a screenshot of Jurassic Park: The Lost World.  It’s really quite a nice little puppet, and the film makers were able to give it the very lifelike, birdy movements described in the first book of the series.


The model has a few glaring inaccuracies, but I really enjoyed watching it in the film anyway.

  • Shrinkwrapped skin on muscle on bone, with no soft tissue in between.
  • Two fingers instead of three
  • Broken bunny arms
  • The lack of feathers is not technically inaccurate, because some relatives preserve feathers, and others preserve scales on the tail. So it’s a coin toss really, at least until we can find more data.  🙂


Making progress…

Twig got an update!  There are skin impressions that show a scaly tail and legs on this critter, so he needed an update.  I also gave him his little dew claws on his feet, and fixed the shape of his head a bit to make it a closer match to the adult.

Here’s the old one, just to compare. 🙂

Twig_eye change
Floof based on close cousin, since I didn’t know of the skin impressions.  I also found out that the ref I used for the head was a juvenile.
Skin impressions show small, round, cobblestone-like scales (tubercules) on the tail and legs.  Some cousins have them on the belly as well.  I think his legs might still be a bit short though…unless you blame foreshortening? 😀  I’ll miss that floofy tail.


Small dinosaurs and small updates makes me think of small steps.

Small, consistent steps make sure progress.

It’s so easy for life to “get in the way”.  To get caught up in the busyness of all the things we have to do.  To look down the road we’re traveling on and despair because we can’t even see the finish line yet.

Why do I keep coming back to this?

Because if I’m not careful I can get overwhelmed with everything I still have to do, especially with everything life throws at me on a daily basis.  And that’s true for anyone who has a plan for the future.

The most important thing for me is to be present for my family, so I stay home with the three kids and try to keep the house in order.  It’s good work, and a blessing that I can stay home, but it’s definitely a full-time job.  There are no margins for artistic work unless I make the time.

Which means I always have a sketchbook in hand, and I take full advantage of naptime and early mornings as much as I can.

For a little while there, I was doing pretty good.  About an hour over naptime, and I was getting up at 7 to have another hour to work on the book before the kids got up in the morning (dear Hubby’s early start to the day helped wake me up 🙂 ).

But life is going to be a little more interesting.

We’re expecting Babysaurus #4! 😀


Growing a baby can be tough!  Especially the first three months.  It doesn’t look like much is going on, but the first three months are when Baby is growing the fastest, which can lead to some interesting side effects.  Luckily I didn’t have too many complaints, but I did find it pretty hard to stay awake.  (the fatigue should go away for the next 3 months *crossing fingers*)

I had to slow things down quite a lot.  Lower my expectations of what I could get done without exhausting what energy I could muster…and that brings me back to little steps.

You might have a super-busy, stressful life with a full time job (or even two jobs) you hate.  Or you might have a life filled to the brim with the people and work you love, but still want to fulfill that dream of writing a book or painting.

It doesn’t matter where you live or what season of life you are in, you can still start on your dream.

I don’t have the time, skill, or education that others have.  I’ve never had professional instruction in illustration or art.  I have three young children (and another on the way! 😀 ), a loving husband to support, and a house to keep.  I have a million excuses for why I can’t continue doing this, for why I should never have started.  You’re busy too.  We’re all busy, and anyone could have excuses for never starting.

The important thing is to start, and to keep taking little steps.

Progress may be slow, and the task may be a bit big to chew, but slow progress is still progress.  Little steps add up, and before you know it 5 or 20 minutes here and there has turned into something amazing. 🙂


Coming Next Week…

A real sweetie who’ll tolerate just about anything, even dress up.  Just be careful not to spook her. 🙂

Share your guess in the comments! She’s one of the critters over on the critter page. 🙂

8 thoughts on “Critter of the Week: Compsognathus

      1. I think his long head and mouth were for sticking in cracks and crevices to grab grubs and other tasty treats like small lizards that were hiding from predators there


  1. Congratulations to you for Babysaurus #4! Please don’t stress yourself creating this book,we will always look forward to your work even if it takes about a year! Also,can you say goodbye to Twig’s “tail pom-poms” for me? (That’s what i think it is) But i think the tail actually looks much more “proportional” in the new one.Regarding the compy is the size of chicken thing,i can’t believe i actually believed in that!.The next passenger in the COW train is probably Bella,not sure.


    1. Thank you! And thank you for stopping by. 🙂 I’ve been careful enough that I’m not stressed out a bit, so no worries there. This post was a bit more like an explanation for why progress is so slow lately, and encouragement for anyone who might be in a similar position. 🙂

      Twig will miss his floof, but I’ll have to add a sinosauropterix to the shop at some point. That one has proof of a lusciously fluffy tail. 😀 The chicken size comparison seems to be quite common for just about any small dinosaur, but at least the original juvenile compy was the size of an average chicken. It wasn’t until adult fossils were found that we knew of the adults’ turkey size.

      Lol, maybe I could dedicate a post to the chicken size problem. There are hundreds of chicken breeds of all sizes. 🙂

      Nope, not Bella. Want another hint? 😉


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