Temporal range: Late Cretaceous, Campanian
Ceratonykus oculatus.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Clade: Dinosauria
Clade: Saurischia
Clade: Theropoda
Family: Alvarezsauridae
Genus: Ceratonykus
Alifanov & Barsbold, 2009
C. oculatus
Binomial name
Ceratonykus oculatus
Alifanov & Barsbold, 2009

Ceratonykus (meaning 'horned claw') is a genus of alvarezsaurid theropod dinosaur that existed in the late Cretaceous period (Campanian). The discovery of a fragmented skeleton in Mongolia in early 2009 has led scientists to question where alvarezsaurids fit taxonomically into Theropoda.


Size of various Alvarezsaurids compared to a human, Ceratonykus in red

Ceratonykus was a long-legged dinosaur that appears to have been adapted for running in the desert. It was very small, with a skull length of 6 centimetres (2.4 in). In 2010 Paul estimated its length at 60 cm (2 ft), its weight at 1 kg (2.2 lbs).[1] In 2016 Molina-Pérez and Larramendi gave a length of 75 cm (2.5 ft) and a weight of 760 grams (1.68 lbs) with a hip height of 30 cm (1 ft).[2]

Originally thought to be one of the earliest members of flightless birds, alvarezsaurids have recently been regarded as more basal theropods. Skeletal remains suggest that they had tiny but stout forelimbs and compact birdlike hands. The skeletal structure also suggests that this dinosaur possessed significant breast and arm muscles that were likely adapted for tearing and digging. They had elongate jaws with minute teeth and a tubular snout that suggests they could have been adapted to feed on insects such as termites.[3]


  1. ^ Paul, Gregory S. (2010). The Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs. New Jersey: Princeton University Press. p. 127.
  2. ^ Molina-Pérez & Larramendi (2016). Récords y curiosidades de los dinosaurios Terópodos y otros dinosauromorfos. Spain: Larousse. p. 269.
  3. ^ V. R. Alifanov and R. Barsbold. 2009. Ceratonykus oculatus gen. et sp. nov., a new dinosaur (? Theropoda, Alvarezsauria) from the Late Cretaceous of Mongolia. Paleontological Journal 43(1):94-106.