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For many years, people thought of dinosaurs as huge, lumbering reptiles. When Deinonychus was discovered in the 1960s, scientists had to look at dinosaurs in a new way. Deinonychus was the first birdlike dinosaur to be discovered. It was lightweight and fast, with razor-sharp claws—a feathered killing machine!

Fun Facts

  • Deinonychus lived during the Early Cretaceous Period—108 to 115 million years ago.
  • It was smaller than many dinosaurs, standing 11 feet tall from its nose to its tail.
  • Deinonychus was a meat eater. Its name means “Terrible Claw,” in reference to the 5-inch retractable claw on its second finger. This claw could be opened and shut like a switchblade. It had many small, sharp serrated teeth, perfect for slicing through flesh.
  • It has been found mostly in the western United States, including Wyoming, Montana, and Oklahoma. Its bones have been found on the East Coast too.
  • Deinonychus had a long tail made up of many small bones. The tail was strong, but flexible, and probably gave the dinosaur balance and speed.
  • Scientists debate over how this animal hunted. Some people think it hunted in packs, jumping on the backs of larger prey and using its powerful claws and feet. Others think deinonychus used its second claw the same way hawks and eagles do: to hold down prey while ripping it apart.
  • A Deinonychus skeleton was found with some eggs. Scientists think the dinosaur might have been sitting on the eggs, incubating them to keep them warm. If true, this means that Deinonychus was endothermic, or warm-blooded, like birds, rather than reptiles.


Questions and Answers

Question: Did Deinonychus have feathers?

Answer: Only bones have been found, but scientists have discovered feathered dinosaurs that are related to Deinonychus. This dinosaur probably did have feathers.

Learn More

Watch a video about Deinonychus.



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