An Ultimate Guide to Sinraptor: The Thief of China

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

Name Meaning“Chinese thief”Height3 meters (9.8 feet)
PronunciationSIE-noh-RAP-torLength7 meters (23 feet)
EraMesozoicLate JurassicWeight1,000 kilograms (2,200 pounds)
ClassificationDinosauria,‭ Saurischia & TheropodaLocationNorthwestern China, specifically in the Shishugou Formation

Sinraptor Pictures

Side view of Sinraptor | Sergey Krasovskiy via GettyImages

The Sinraptor

Gage Beasley Prehistoric's Sinraptor Concept
Gage Beasley Prehistoric’s Sinraptor Concept

The Sinraptor is a metriacanthosaurid (Greek: “moderately-spined lizards) therapod genus that thrived in the Late Jurassic period.

Its name comes from the Latin roots “Sino,” meaning Chinese, and “raptor,” meaning thief. Hence, Sinraptor — the Thief of China.

Philip J. Currie and Zhao Xijin described Sinraptor in 1993.

The holotype specimen was unearthed from the Shishugou Formation in 1987 during a joint Chinese-Canadian expedition to the northwestern Chinese desert.

Sinraptor is the most recognizable member of the Metriacanthosauridae family, which was occasionally referred to as “Sinraptoridae” in earlier texts.

Life restoration of Sinraptor dongi
Life restoration of Sinraptor dongi | Nobu Tamura via Wikipedia CC BY 3.0

Despite having the prefix ‘raptor’ in its name, the Sinraptor is more closely related to carnosaurs like the Allosaurus than the smaller dromaeosaurids, including the ever-famous Velociraptor.

True raptors wouldn’t appear for millions of years after this dinosaur went extinct.

As of writing, two species of Sinraptor have been identified.

The type species S. dongi was described in 1993 by Currie and Zhao.

A second species, which Gao called Yangchuanosaurus hepingensis in 1992, may actually be a second species of Sinraptor.

Whatever the case, Sinraptor and Yangchuanosaurus were related, and both belonged to the same family, Metriacanthosauridae.

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

Physical Characteristics

Sinraptor, whose length was approximately 30 feet (9 meters), commanded attention with its imposing bulk and presence.

Its substantial and muscular physique reflected its prowess as an era-appropriate predator.

The elongated and comparatively low-profile cranium of Sinraptor was a distinctive characteristic.

Gage Beasley Prehistoric's Sinraptor Size Comparison Chart
Gage Beasley Prehistoric’s Sinraptor Size Comparison Chart

This deeply laterally compressed skull is composed of a  mixture of solid bones and a slim muzzle that contributed to its aerodynamic construction.

The large eye cavities set within the cranium suggested that Sinraptor’s sense of sight was exceptionally developed.

This was vital for monitoring and pursuing prey.

Inside its skull, the Sinraptor’s teeth were an incredible assortment of weaponry.

The dinosaur’s mandible contained a multitude of sharp, serrated fangs.

These imposing canines are frequently recurved, ideally adapted for catching, handling, and dismembering targets with impressive effectiveness.

Sinraptor’s teeth serrations suggest that it evolved for tearing and slitting through flesh, allowing it to consume an extensive range of victims.

Sinraptor's sharp rows of teeth allowed it hunt a wide range of prey
Sinraptor’s sharp rows of teeth allowed it hunt a wide range of prey | Zhangzhugang via Wikipedia CC BY 4.0

The Sinraptor, like many theropods, was an imposing sight.

The dinosaur was bulky, coming in at around 25 feet long, 10 feet tall, and weighed approximately 2000 pounds or 1 ton.

Being heavy and stocky, the bipedal dinosaur relied on its long and powerful two hind legs, enabling it to hunt with exceptional speed by allowing for forceful propulsion and rapid movement. 

Its long and flexible tail offers counterbalance for abrupt turns and maneuvers, along with its bipedal posture that keeps its body horizontally parallel to the ground, lending it sustained agility, balance, and stability, especially in high-speed and intense chases with its prey.

In the most common therapod form, the Sinraptor’s muscular forelimbs were shorter than its hind legs, but it is no less important and impressive.

Its forelimbs had three fingers each, each finger possessing sharp, pointed, curved talons most likely meant to seize and immobilize prey by pressing down on them as it feasts.

These adaptations solidify the Sinraptor’s position as a dominant Late Jurassic predator.

Its powerful rear legs, muscular forelimbs bearing pointed talons, and robust and agile tail provided this therapod with increased dexterity and fearsome efficiency.

A 3D rendition of Sinraptor walking in a forest
A 3D rendition of Sinraptor walking in a forest | Lythronax via Planet Dinosaur Fandom

Sinraptor’s back and tail were adorned with spines and bone plates (osteoderms), giving it a distinctive aspect.

Even though we can only speculate as to their precise function, these structures likely served as defensive or displaying acts during intraspecies relationships.

These spines and osteoderms contributed further to Sinraptor’s unique appearance and morphology.

Certain theropods, such as Velociraptors and the Tyrannosaurus Rex, are considered to have had feathers.

However, dinosaurs such as Allosaurus, which is closely related to Sinraptor, lived much earlier than Velociraptor and T-Rex.

Due to the great age difference between these dinosaurs and the time when skin coverings evolved (including feathers), it is possible that these dinosaurs either went extinct before the development of skin coverings or never had them. 

Habitat and Distribution

In general, the climate during the Late Jurassic was warm and humid, which fostered a wide biodiversity of flora and fauna.

It is suggested that the Sinraptor thrived in diverse habitats, like forests, floodplains, and river systems, as these provided the predator with a bountiful variety of prey it requires to survive. 

The Sinraptor existed in specific habitats and is distributed to limited regions, with several fossil evidence showing that they mostly lived in modern-day north-western China, specifically from the Shishugou Formation (where its fossils were originally found) and the Dashanpu Dinosaur Quarry.  

While the fossil evidence suggests that the Sinraptor resides in China, the true extent of its distribution is still under investigation.

Possible evidence for Sinraptor’s existence in other locations might be gleaned through new fossil finds or studies in those areas.

Still, it’s important to note that China’s Late Jurassic diverse environments played a considerable role in the habitat and distribution of the Sinraptor, especially when it comes to predator-prey relationships.

Behavior and Diet

We can glean the basics of a diet and behavior of a Sinraptor by looking at its anatomy and its lineage. 

Sinraptor looking for prey
A Sinraptor looking for prey | Lythronax via Planet Dinosaur Wiki

It’s no question that Sinraptor lived as an apex predator.

Since it thrived in lush forests and near bodies of water, it may have had the privilege of being an opportunistic predator, as it can prey on a wide range of animals residing in its territory.

The Sinoraptor was an active predator, using its long, muscular, and powerful hind limbs to propel itself in pursuing prey.

Its robust tail lets the dinosaur perform feats of agility and dexterity, which is essential in hunting down small and agile prey.

Its exceptional bite force is estimated to be about 10,845 Newtons (stronger than a Great White Shark, which tops out at about 18,216 Newtons) and would have been capable of easily bringing down prey.

Once downed, the prey will then be held down by its sheer weight and muscular forearms.

Sinoraptor’s sharp, serrated teeth indicate that it is a carnivore specialized in gripping, tearing, and slicing meat and flesh.

Sinraptor with a fresh kill
A Sinraptor with a fresh kill | Lythronax via Planet Dinosaur Wiki

They probably fed on the young of the large herbivores that lived in this area.

Adult Sinraptor may have targeted medium-sized dinosaurs like small, juvenile sauropods, while young Sinoraptors likely preyed on smaller games like Epidexipteryx and other small creatures.

Sinraptor’s behavior could have been affected by external variables such as the accessibility of prey and the degree of competition.

Some research suggests that theropods, such as Sinraptor, might have taken part in pack hunting, collaborating with others to capture larger prey or defend territory.

However, additional research is required to confirm the specific social dynamics and hunting strategies of Sinraptor.

Life Cycle

Sinraptor’s life cycle, like that of other dinosaurs, is based primarily on fossils and correlations with living reptiles and birds. 

Sinraptor hepingensis skull from the Beijing Musuem of Natural History
Sinraptor hepingensis skull from the Beijing Musuem of Natural History | FarleyKatz via Wikimedia CC BY-SA 4.0

Fossilized embryos and comparable species suggest that this theropod dinosaur’s reproductive system involved egg-laying.

Sinraptor’s life cycle begins with the hatchling stage, during which it might have depended on its parents for care or lived independently, as do reptiles and birds today. 

Sinraptor likely reproduced after reaching sexual maturation, but the scarcity of conclusive fossil evidence leaves uncertainties regarding its social and reproductive rituals unanswered.

It is difficult to estimate the lifespan of Sinraptor due to a large number of factors, such as growth rates, environmental conditions, predatory requirements, and vulnerability to disease or injury. 

Despite our limited comprehension of Sinraptor’s reproductive strategies, development patterns, and general life stages, we can learn a great deal by comparing it to its extant relatives and other dinosaurs.

As paleontologists delve greater into its fossilized remains and unearth more fossilized material, our understanding of Sinraptor’s intriguing past will expand.

Evolution and History

Late Jurassic theropod dinosaurs like Sinraptor (Metriacanthosauridae) existed between 161 and 145 million years ago. 

The holotype specimen of Sinraptor was described in 1993 by Philip J. Currie and Zhao Xijin.

It was discovered in 1987 in the Shishugou Formation in the northwestern Chinese desert by a collaborative Chinese-Canadian expedition.

A complete skeleton of Sinraptor on display
A complete skeleton of Sinraptor on display | FunkMonk via Wikipedia CC BY-SA 2.0

Both Sinraptor species are around 3 meters (9.8 feet) tall and 7.6 meters (25 feet) long, and they are known to exist today.

In 1993, Currie and Zhao described the type species, S. dongi.

The ancestors of Sinraptor are thought to have included Yangchuanosaurus and other theropod dinosaurs. 

Since it is more likely than not that Yangchuanosaurus is a species of Sinraptor, the former name, Yangchuanosaurus hepingensis, has been changed to Sinraptor hepingensis.

Whether or not this is the case, Sinraptor and Yangchuanosaurus are placed in the same family, the Metriacanthosauridae.

Holtz calculated the length of S. dongi to be 8.8 meters (29 feet), whereas Gregory S. Paul predicted that it would grow to be 8 meters (26 feet) long and weigh 1.3 metric tons (1.4 short tons).

Sinraptor’s journey through evolution helps advance our understanding of the theropod dinosaurs’ Late Jurassic diversification and ecological dynamics.

New fossils discovered by paleontologists are adding to our knowledge of the Sinraptor’s history and original role.

Interactions with Other Species

A pair of Sinraptors preparing to attack a Shunosaurus
A pair of Sinraptors preparing to attack a Shunosaurus | Rahona via Dinopedia Fandom

Sinraptor was most likely the dominant carnivore in its habitat. 

The large, predatory Sinraptor would have hunted weaker herbivores such as Camptosaurus and Stegosaurus

Sinraptor may have fought rival large theropods such as Yangchuanosaurus due to their shared environment. 

As these theropods competed for the same sustenance and territory, populations and ranges of predatory dinosaurs fluctuated. 

In turn, this will impact herbivore populations in the surrounding environment. 

Apex predators, such as Sinraptor, were essential for maintaining the ecosystem’s health and equilibrium.

Cultural Significance

Sinraptor is not as well-known as other dinosaurs and has yet to make memorable cameos in pop culture. 

The second episode of Planet Dinosaur, titled Feathered Dragons, however, featured Sinraptor.

While not the largest carnosaur, Sinraptor was still a very capable predator
While not the largest carnosaur, Sinraptor was still a very capable predator | DinosaursRoar via Ideas Wiki

A young Sinraptor in this episode failed in its attempt to eat an Epidexipteryx that had taken refuge in a log.

Following this incident, an Epidexipteryx grabbed a beetle larva, but a juvenile Sinraptor showed up and killed it.

There are two salient points about this Sinraptor appearance.

First, the Sinraptor is the only dinosaur in the Feathered Dragons episode that has no conclusive proof of having feathers. 

Second, although the two species have never interacted, Sinraptor and Epidexipteryx are pictured living side by side.

Epidexipteryx lived around 165 million years ago, during the Middle Jurassic, whereas Sinraptor lived roughly 160 million years ago, during the Late Jurassic.

However, the Sinraptor may have shared the Earth with other scansoriopterygids like the newly found Yi qi, and a comparable theropod like Gasosaurus may have coexisted with Epidexipteryx.


Sinraptor-related research has increased our understanding of theropod dinosaurs.

Fossils discovered in northwest China shed light on their morphology, behavior, and evolutionary history.

The exceptional limb structure of the Late Jurassic apex predator Sinraptor enabled it to sprint and capture prey, and its bipedal posture and well-coordinated tail contributed to its agility.

There is still a great deal we do not understand about Sinraptor, but paleontology presents a chance to broaden our knowledge of this intriguing creature and its function in the ecosystem.

Sinraptor’s discovery has enthralled scientists and dinosaur enthusiasts equally, serving as a potent reminder of the incredible world that once flourished on Earth.


Is Sinraptor a raptor?

The Sinraptor is unrelated to and not a member of the raptor (Dromaeosaurid) family.

Relative to the Allosaurus, it is more closely connected to the Yangchuanosaurus, and as mentioned above, the Yangchuanosaurus may be a Sinraptor species.

What does the Sinraptor eat?

Ornithopods, medium-sized sauropods, stegosaurs, tiny crocodylomorphs, small pterosaurs, and smaller theropods were all fair game for Sinraptor

Where can you see a Sinraptor skeleton?

In Zigong, China, the Zigong Dinosaur Museum has a display of the skeleton of Sinraptor hepingensis.

How fast was the Sinraptor?

While there are no sources that specify its speed, we could gather that the Sinraptor was capable of immense bursts of speed owing to its powerful hind legs.


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