Ornitholestes was a bipedal carnivore.Its head was proportionally smaller than that of most other predatory dinosaurs, but the skull was heavily built, with a short snout and robust lower jaw. The orbits (eye sockets) were quite large, measuring over 25 percent of the skull’s length.[4] There is no indication of a bony eye ring.

The front teeth of Ornitholestes were somewhat conical, with reduced serrations; the back teeth were recurved and more sharply serrated, similar to those of other theropod dinosaurs. Henry Fairfield Osborn (1903) counted four teeth in the premaxilla, of which the front tooth was the largest in the upper jaw. In contrast, Gregory S. Paul (1988) depicted the skull with only three premaxillary teeth remaining, much smaller than those illustrated by Osborn. Each maxilla (main tooth-bearing bone in the upper jaw) contained ten teeth, and each dentary (tooth-bearing bone in the lower jaw) contained twelve teeth. The tooth rows of Ornitholestes were short, with the dentary (lower) row being even shorter than the maxillary (upper) row, even though the dentary bone itself was exceptionally long at the back, reaching a point below the middle of the eye socket. Teeth did not extend as far back as the orbits, and neither tooth row spanned much more than one-third of the skull

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Fact file

  • Pronounced Or-nith-oh-LES-teez
  • Meaning of name bird robber
  • Length 2m
  • Diet carnivorous
  • When it lived Late Jurassic (150 – 144 million years ago)
  • Found in USA

Taxonomic details

  • Taxonomy Dinosauria, Saurischia, Theropoda, Neotherapoda, Tetanurae, Avetherapoda, Coelurosauria, Ornitholestes
  • Named by Osbourne (1933)
  • Type species hermanni