Saltopus may be the oldest European dinosaur. Its bones were found in what is today the country of Scotland. We don’t know very much about this dinosaur because we still haven’t found a complete Saltopus skeleton yet. Until now, what we have are just pieces of this dinosaur’s hind legs and hip bones. Saltopus lived in the late Triassic period, about 225 to 222 million years ago. It was one of the smallest dinosaurs. It was not even as large as a cat. It weighed only two pounds! It was two feet tall and two feet long.
Saltopus was bipedal, meaning that it walked on its hind legs. It was a very fast runner. Its bones were hollow, which made it very light. Running away was a good way to escape larger hunting dinosaurs. Its name means “leaping foot” because paleontologists used to think that it traveled by jumping. Now we know that it was a runner. We know this by studying its footprints, or trackways. The prints were far apart and evenly-spaced and this tells us a bit about the way the dinosaur moved around.
But despite its small size, Saltopus was a carnivore, meaning that it ate meat. Saltopus had many, many small sharp teeth. It probably ate lizards and insects. Saltopus was also a scavenger, meaning that it ate leftovers from other dinosaurs’ meals. It used its five-fingered hands to grab its prey. The fourth and fifth fingers were much smaller than the others. They were so small that no one could actually see them.