An Ultimate Guide to the Atrociraptor: A Savage Thief

Leave a comment / / Updated on: 23rd September 2023

Name Meaning“Savage Thief”Height0.9-1.2 meters (3-4 feet)
PronunciationAh-tro-ci-rap-torLength2.01 meters (6.6 feet)
EraMesozoicLate CretaceousWeight15kg (33 lbs)
ClassificationDinosauria,‭ ‬Saurischia & TheropodaLocationCanada (North America)

Atrociraptor Pictures

Atrociraptor on white background | Mateusz Atroszko via GettyImages

The Atrociraptor

Gage Beasley Prehistoric's Atrociraptor Concept
Gage Beasley Prehistoric’s Atrociraptor Concept

The Atrociraptor is a genus of dinosaurs that lived around 66 to 83.5 million years ago during the Cretaceous period.

They are a type of theropod dinosaur and belong to the Dromaeosauridae family, related to other medium-sized carnivores like the Velociraptor

Discovered in 1995 by Wayne Marshall, the Atrociraptor is known from five fossil specimens.

The discovery fossil, holotype RTMP 95.166. 1 was found in Alberta, Canada.

The first fossil was a partial upper jaw, snout, lower jaw, and teeth and was pulled out of a Cretaceous layer in the Horseshoe Canyon Formation. 

Gage Beasley's Prehistoric Shirt Collection
Gage Beasley’s Prehistoric Shirt Collection
Gage Beasley's Prehistoric Plush Collection
Gage Beasley’s Prehistoric Plush Collection

In 2004 the  Atrociraptor fossil discovered was described by paleontologists. Philip J. Currie and David Varrichhio.

The Latin word “atrox” meaning savage, and “raptor” translating to seizer, is where their name derives from. 

Discovering dromaeosaurids in North America is important as many fossils found of these dinosaurs are incomplete.

Fossils from dinosaurs like the Atrociraptor and other similar species are useful in learning about the ancient savage reptiles that once ruled Earth.

Thanks to paleontologists and other experts studying dinosaurs, it is possible to know how species like the Atrociraptor looked, lived, ate, and interacted with the world millions of years ago.

Physical Characteristics

Atrociraptor | GurgiFan57 via SciiFii

The Atrociraptor was a bipedal dinosaur that had a swift build.

Compared to other giant dinosaurs of the time, this species was only around the size of a turkey but had a body length that reached up to 2.01 meters (6.6 ft).

A large tail helped this dinosaur maintain balance while moving.

Theropod dinosaurs like the Atrociraptor have large heads, and short arms, with a body shape similar to the T-rex.

Their light weight of around 15 kgs (33 lbs.) helped them move quickly.

Gage Beasley Prehistoric's Atrociraptor Size Comparison Concept
Gage Beasley Prehistoric’s Atrociraptor Size Comparison Concept

Like other theropod dinosaurs, the Atrociraptor was feathered like a bird, despite some depictions in media showing this dinosaur with a scaly appearance like a lizard.

This dinosaur had a broad head with sharp, barred teeth. They had sharp claws on their feet and hands, which helped them rip into prey.

Large eyes helped this dinosaur stalk, prey, and see incoming predators. 

Even with the small amount of fossil evidence from the Atrociraptor, other fossils from similar dinosaurs and animals alive today are how scientists figure out how ancient species looked.

At the time of its existence, the Atrociraptor was smaller than many of the dinosaurs it came across. Their speed and strength in numbers made up for this.

Habitat and Distribution

Alberta, Canada, is where the Atrociraptor was discovered, and this dinosaur likely had a large range that covered North America.

This species lived during the late Cretaceous period from the Campanian to the Maastrichtian ages.

North America during the Cretaceous period went through several stages, as this epoch lasted for about 80 million years. 

In the late Cretaceous period, North America was split by the western interior seaway.

This seaway only disappeared around 70 million years ago at the end stages of the Cretaceous period.

The land masses of Laramidia and Appalachia are what made up North America during this age and where dinosaurs and other ancient life lived. 

Atrociraptors likely lived in woodlands, wetlands, and swampy habitats.

North America during this period was filled with woodlands and swampy habitats.

There were plenty of coastal wetlands due to the western interior seaway and the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans surrounding the continent. 

Atrociraptors died off at the end of the Cretaceous period, along with the other dinosaurs.

It was only after the death of the dinosaurs at the very end of the Late Cretaceous period is when the western interior seaway disappeared.

The habitats that the Atrociraptor lived in that were swampy make it likely there are other fossils preserved that can be discovered. 

Behavior and Diet

Atrociraptor | Image via Wiki Dino

The Atrociraptor is a carnivorous species that primarily feeds on meat. They were equipped with sharp claws and teeth suited for tearing into the flesh of their prey.

Atrociraptors are also thought to be scavengers and eat dead animals they come across.

The Atrociraptors smaller size made it difficult for them to take out larger prey like larger dinosaurs.

Smaller animals like lizards, insects, and small mammals are what this dinosaur’s diet likely consisted of, but further research is required. 

While it is believed these dinosaurs could have been predators, they also likely stole food from other dinosaurs.

Larger dinosaurs are better suited for killing and could have done all the work, while this species swiftly swooped in and robbed the prized meat. 

What made the Atrociraptor a fearsome animal of its time was not its size but its speed.

Evidence suggests Atrociraptors lived and also hunted together in large groups.

Atrociraptor showing its fearsome jaws
Atrociraptor showing its fearsome jaws | Holocenum via JurassicParkFandom

It was possible these dinosaurs could have worked together to take out larger prey.

The snout of the Atrociraptor was deep, which helped them take deep bites of flesh.

Their teeth were curved, which helped keep their prey from escaping. 

Estimates of the Atrociraptor’s speed have them able to run up to 64.3 kph. (40 mph).

Compared to other dinosaurs, the Atrociraptor was one of the fastest.

They were extremely quick compared to the T-rex, which runs around 20 kph. (12 mph.), and they can closely keep up with the fastest known dinosaur, the Troodon, which had a speed of around 80 km (49 mph).

The Atrociraptor was able to run away from the larger dinosaur predators and relied on their speed to take out prey.

Life Cycle 

Atrociraptor on white background
Atrociraptor on white background | Mateusz Atroszko via GettyImages

The Atrociraptor, like all other dinosaurs and modern bird species, hatched from eggs.

There have been no discoveries of this dinosaur’s eggs, and their reproduction is unknown since there are so few fossils remaining from them.

Even dinosaur egg fossils that are discovered leave little trace of the dinosaur to study from, as fossilized embryos are extremely rare. 

When born, the Atrociraptor likely had little feathers, and they grew them over time like a bird.

Since there is no evidence these dinosaurs could fly young, they were extremely vulnerable to other predators and the elements.

The lifespan of the Atrociraptor is not known, but similar species like the Velociraptor are estimated to live around 25 years. 

Evolution and History

Holotype skull at the Royal Tyrrell Museum
Holotype skull at the Royal Tyrrell Museum | Ferahgo the Assassin via Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0

In North America, the Atrociraptor was one of the earliest dinosaurs to be discovered in the area.

Their discovery was revolutionary since it provided further information on the evolution of theropods, their behavior, and the types that lived in the region.

Being a smaller type of theropod, the Atrociraptor showed scientists that not all dinosaurs at the time were large, and some theropods were smaller that relied on agility and speed.

When first described, the Atrociraptor was put in the Velociraptorinae subfamily.

2009 is when this was changed, and they became classified as members of the Saurornitholestinae, with further evidence coming out supporting this in 2022.

With future discoveries of fossils of the Atrociraptors and similar species, the classifications and how this dinosaur looks are subject to change.

The Atrociraptor is an important evolutionary link, helping bridge the smaller and larger species of theropod dinosaurs.

It is not likely this dinosaurs flew, but they were feathered and had a similar appearance to modern birds like the cassowary.

Modern bird species are the only theropods still extant, and the Atrocirpator is important in understanding how birds descended from dinosaurs.

Interactions with Other Species

Styracosaurus, one of the dinosaurs in North America with the Atrociraptor
Styracosaurus, one of the dinosaurs in North America with the Atrociraptor | Elenarts108 via GettyImages

During the Late Cretaceous period, dinosaurs ruled North America until the asteroid mass extinction event occurred.

The Atrociraptor lived alongside many dinosaur species that are well known.

Some dinosaurs that lived in North America during the time period of the Atrocirpator include:

  • Acantholipan
  • Achelousaurus
  • Adolphus
  • Appalachiosaurus
  • Boreonykus 
  • Caenagnathus
  • Centrosaurus
  • Chasmosaurus
  • Coronosaurus
  • Dyoplosaurus
  • Hesperonychus
  • Monoclonius
  • Montanoceratops
  • Panoplosaurus
  • Spinops
  • Unescoceratops

It is impossible to know all of the dinosaurs that lived alongside the Atrociraptor, but several fossil findings have been discovered in Alberta near where this dinosaur was discovered.

During their time period, the Atrociraptors were not the fiercest predators, but dinosaurs and their young had to be wary of getting picked and attacked by groups of Atrociraptors or getting their food stolen. 

Cultural Significance

Atrociraptor in Jurassic World
Atrociraptor in Jurassic World | Rexy5109 via Jurassic Park Fandom

Dinosaurs have sparked wonder in people for hundreds of years, and discoveries like the Atrociraptor continue to catch people’s interest.

The Jurrasic series is one of the world’s most popular dinosaur media franchises and is where species like Atrocirpator are brought to life.

The Atrocirpator has appeared in movies like Jurrasic World: Dominion, and while they are not completely accurately represented, these dinosaurs inspired movie makers with their speed and ferocity.

Dinosaurs that appear in movies like Atrociraptors may appear without feathers since it was only very recently, in the 1990s, the discovery was made that some dinosaurs have feathers.

Atrociraptors in movies have a scaly, lizard-like appearance and are also much larger to make them look more terrifying. 

Compared to the Atrociraptors in movies, the real-life dinosaurs were much smaller and bird-like.

In the future, Atrociraptors may be featured in other movies or even be the inspiration for a different movie creature. 


Living during the Late Createcaouse period, the Atrociraptor was one of the smaller dinosaurs, but not nearly the smallest.

These dinosaurs were speedy and agile compared to other larger therapods like the Giganotosaurus or the Tyrannosaurus. 

Fossils from the Atrociraptors are extremely rare.

At the time of their discovery, the Atrociraptor was one of the smallest Theropods and helped scientists understand how dromaeosaurid dinosaurs evolved over time.

The Atrociraptor represents the link between smaller and earlier dinosaurs into larger and more evolved species. 

The mass extinction event that occurred 65 million years ago changed the earth’s landscape.

It allowed mammals to become the dominant species of the time and set the stage for humans to begin to evolve.

Dinosaurs like the Atorciraptor are largely understood from the fossils they left behind.

Species like the Atrociraptor may resemble the birds we see today.

The Atrociraptor was around the size of a turkey but had the claws and ferocity of other dinosaurs. 


Were Atrociraptors hunters or scavengers?

Atrociraptor in Latin translates to “savage robber,” and it is likely that this dinosaur used its quick speed to steal food from other animals.

Atrociraptors also used their speed to hunt smaller animals, and it is believed that they lived in packs together to make it easier.

Like many animals today, the Atrociraptor was an opportunistic feeder that both hunted and scavaged for food.

When did the Atrociraptor go extinct?

Along with many of the other dinosaurs, the Atrociraptor went extinct at the end of the Cretaceous period.

The impact of the Chicxulub asteroid caused a blast of around 1000 million megatons, and its impact in North America caused a mass extinction event killing around 75% of plant and animal life.

Species like the Atrociraptor, if not killed by the blast, likely died due to the changes the asteroid caused in their habitats, limiting food, clean air, and suitable living habitats.

Did the Atrociraptor have feathers?

The Atrociraptor is a type of dromaeosaurid, which means they were likely covered in feathers like a bird.

Earlier depictions of dinosaurs had no feathers and were only covered in scales.

The discovery of fossils with preserved feathers caused most scientists to believe that all types of raptor dinosaurs were feathered.

Today there is still debate whether all dinosaurs have feathers, but current evidence suggests that all theropod dinosaurs were feathered.


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