"The Second Lunch"
"Ciro" - Scipionyx samniticus eating its second prey,
acrylics by brush and airbrush on cardboard
8,4 x 11,88 inches / 21 x 29,7 cm
dal Sasso & Signore, 1998
S. samniticus dal Sasso & Signore, 1998
Scipionyx is a very small genus of theropod dinosaur from the Early Cretaceous of Italy, around 113 million years ago. There has been only one skeleton discovered, which is notable for the preservation of soft tissue and internal organs. It is the fossil of a juvenile only a few inches long. Adult size is estimated to be 2 metres (approx. 6 feet). The name Scipionyx comes from the Latin word Scipio and the Greek onyx, meaning "Scipio's claw", and for Scipione Breislak, the geologist who wrote the first description of the formation in which the fossil was found. The specific name samniticus means "From the Samnium", the Latin name of the region around Pietraroja. The specimen is also popularly nicknamed "Skippy, or "Doggy"
Scipionyx was discovered in the spring of 1981 by Giovanni Todesco, an amateur paleontologist, near Pietraroja, approximately 50 kilometers from Naples. The fossils were preserved in the Pietraroia limestone formation, well known for unusually well-preserved fossils. Todesco thought the remains belonged to that of a fossil bird. Unaware of the importance of his findings, he kept the strange fossil in the basement of his house until 1992 when he met two paleontologists, Cristiano dal Sasso of the Natural History Museum of Milan and Marco Signore of the University of Naples Federico II, who identified it as the first Italian dinosaur. The magazine Oggi gave the tiny dinosaur the nickname Ciro, a typical Neapolitan name. In 1998, Scipionyx made the front cover of Nature.
Scipionyx is classified as a coelurosaurian theropod. Because the only remains recovered belong to that of a juvenile, it has not been possible to assign this dinosaur to a more specific group. Coelurosaur characteristics included a sacrum (a series of vertebrae that attach to the hips) longer than in other dinosaurs, a tail stiffened towards the tip, and a bowed ulna (lower arm bone). The tibia (lower leg bone) is also characteristically longer than the femur (upper leg bone) in coelurosaurs. Fossil evidence indicates that most coelurosaurs were probably feathered.