Compsognathidae is a family of small carnivorous dinosaurs, generally conservative in form, from the Jurassic and Cretaceous Periods. Compsognathids lie at or near the origin of feathers--skin impressions are known from three genera, Sinosauropteryx, Sinocalliopteryx, and Juravenator. While Sinosauropteryx and Sinocalliopteryx show evidence of a full covering of simple, primitive feathers, Juravenator shows evidence of scales on the tail and hind legs. It is possible that feathers arose within this family, and/or that some species were only partially feathered.
The position of the Compsognathidae within the Coelurosaur group is uncertain; some hold the family as the basalmost of the coelurosaurs, while others as part of the Maniraptora.
In 2003, O.W.M. Rauhut redefined the family Coeluridae
to include Coelurus
, North America), Compsognathus
(Late Jurassic, Europe), Sinosauropteryx
, Asia) and an unnamed Compsognathus
-like form (Early Cretaceous, South America; this dinosaur has since been placed in the new genus Mirischia
). However, this taxonomy has not been widely adopted. Sereno (2005) points out that Compsognathidae has priority of name, even if dinosaurs such as Coelurus
belongs in the same family as Compsognathus