Temporal range: Upper Cretaceous, 113 mya
|Fossil specimen, Museo Civico di Storia Naturale di Milano|
Sasso & Signore, 1998
Scipionyx samniticus is one of the most important recent dinosaur finds. It is a tiny theropod (meat-eater) fossil found in Cretaceous limestone in southern Italy near Naples. Although it was unearthed thirty years ago in 1981, its true importance was not realized until 1994. It is a very important specimen in that it has fossilized remains of many of its internal organs and muscles. This type of detail is rare in fossils since the soft tissues from an animal do not usually fossilize; they almost always rot before mineral replacement can take place. This new fossil will yield a lot of information about dinosaurs' anatomy and physiology as it is studied.
The fossil is a theropod, perhaps a compsognathid (related to Compsognathus). It is a hatchling 9.5 inches (24 cm) long. It is from 113 million years ago (during the Cretaceous period) and has been named Scipionyx samniticus. During the Cretaceous period it lived near a shallow lagoon.