One of the most ancient flying dinosaurs known, the Anchiornis was an uncharacteristically small theropod, about the size of a chicken. This bug-eating creature had majestic wings, dark feathers and a triangular skull.

Key Facts

Anchiornis pronunciationAn-chi-or-nis
What does Anchiornis mean?Near bird
Dinosaur typeTheropod
On the menuCarnivorous
Length0.5 meters (2 feet)
Height0.15 meters (6 inches)
Weight0.11 kilograms (about 0.25 lbs)
Life expectancy10-12 years
Legs used to get aroundBipedal
Estimated top speedUnknown
When they livedUpper Jurassic era 150.8 million years ago
Where they have been found?China

When & Where

In 2009, paleontologist Xu Xing studied and described rocks dating back 160 million years discovered in eastern China. A more complete fossil was unearthed shortly after, earning a place in Nature magazine. Many more fossil records have been described since and are currently held in various museums and private collections.

Size & Weight

Unlike most other theropods, the Anchiornis was relatively small, about the size of a crow. The bipedal dinosaur was between 35 and 40 centimeters in length, with a wingspan of nearly 50 centimeters. It weighed around 110 grams. The Anchiornis was also notable for its unusually long forelimbs, with experts pointing out that this characteristic was essential for flight.

Mobility & Diet

A paravian theropod with long legs and black wings, the Anchiornis was a prime example of an early avian dinosaur. Their feathered hind wings led some scientists to suggest that they were four-winged, however, the feathers don’t resemble those found on flight wings and it’s likely the Anchiornis’ hind wings were purely for display. Their main diet consisted of bugs, fish and lizards, as evidenced by the gastric pellets found inside some fossils.

Interesting Points

  • The species name, Anchiornis huxleyi, is in honor of Thomas Henry Huxley, one of the first biologists to suggest an evolutionary relationship between birds and dinosaurs.
  • The Anchiornis lived about 150 million years ago in modern-day China.
  • Their main diet consisted of bugs, fish and lizards.
  • One of the oldest avian dinosaurs ever discovered, the Anchiornis continues to provide key insight into the early evolution of birds.