Beipiaosaurus – the most Primitive Therizinosaur

Liaoning Province in northern China is world famous for its many dinosaur and other Mesozoic animal fossils.  The remarkable preservation of the fossils of theropod dinosaurs and ancient birds have enabled scientists to make some amazing discoveries.  The creatures drowned in a shallow lake and sank to the muddy bottom, their bodies being quickly covered in volcanic ash, leading to an exquisite state of preservation.  A number of feathered dinosaurs have been identified from the Cretaceous deposits at quarries near the city of Sihetun in the area.  Famous discoveries such as Sinosauropteryx and the potentially venomous Sinornithosaurus show dinosaurs with traces of fibrous coats made of primitive feathers.


One of the largest feathered dinosaurs known in the fossil record is the mysterious Beipiaosaurus.  Fossils of this 2-metre-long member of the Theropoda were found by a local farmer/fossil hunter in 1996, three years later this dinosaur was formerly named and described.  The holotype is stored at the Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology in Beijing.  This partial specimen consisting of elements from the right hand side of the skull and jaw, plus vertebrae and limb bones shows a serious of filaments attached to the forelimbs.  These are believed to be primitive feathers indicating that Beipiaosaurus had a shaggy coat.  Classified as a therizinosaur, this dinosaurs binomial name is Beipiaosaurus inexpectus.  It was named after the Chinese city of Beipiao, near to which the first fossil remains were found, the specific name refers to some of the unexpected discoveries revealed by the specimen, after all, this was a theropod that had adapted to a vegetarian diet.

A Scale Drawing of Beipiaosaurus

Picture credit: Everything Dinosaur

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A Beipiaosaurus Dinosaur Model

Beipiaosaurus dinosaur model.

The Carnegie collection Beipiaosaurus dinosaur model.

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