Mei long
Temporal range: Early Cretaceous
Mei long reconstruction
Restoration by Gabriel N. U.
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordate
Class: Sauropsida
clade: Dinosauria
Superorder: Theropoda
Family: Troodontidae
Subfamily: †Sinovenatorinae
Genus: Mei
Species: Mei long

Mei Long (meaning sleeping (寐 mèi) dragon (龍 lóng) in Chinese) is a Troodontid from early Cretaceous Yixian Formation in Liaoning, China. It was found in a sleep position, with its head under its wing and its legs folded under its body. This proves the behavioral similarity of sleeping dinosaurs to birds.


Fossil of Mei long in a sleeping position

Fossil of Mei long

Mei is a troodontid, which is a group of small, bird-like, gracile maniraptorans. All troodontids have many unique features of the skull, such as closely spaced teeth in the lower jaw, and large numbers of teeth. Troodontids have sickle-claws and raptorial hands, and some of the highest non-avian encephalization quotients, meaning they were behaviourally advanced and had keen senses.[1] The type fossil is a young juvenile about 53 centimetres (21 in) long, complete and exceptionally well preserved in three-dimensional detail, with the snout nestled beneath one of the forelimbs and the legs neatly folded beneath the body, similar to the roosting position of modern birds. This posture provides another behavioral link between birds and dinosaurs.[2] The chemistry of the matrix stone and the resting pose indicate the living animal was probably buried instantly in volcanic ash. A second specimen, DNHM D2154, was also preserved in a sleeping posture. Although DNHM D2154 exhibits several juvenile-like features including free cervical ribs, unfused frontals and nasals, and a short snouted skull, other attributes, full fusion of all neurocentral synostoses and the sacrum, and dense exteriors to cortical bone, suggest a small, mature individual. Microscopic examination of tibia and fibula histology confirms maturity and suggests an individual greater than two years old with slowed growth. Mei is notable as a distinct species of troodontid based on several unique features, including extremely large nares. It is most closely related to the troodontid Sinovenator, which places it near the base of the troodontid family.[2]

Mei long holotype size comparison to human

Mei long holotype size comparison to human

As a basal troodontid, unlike advanced troodontids, it has a bird like hip structure shared with many advanced maniraptorans.


Mei lived in the Early Aptian stage of the Cretaceous period, about 125.8 million years ago. At this time, the Liaoning area was dominated by numerous volcanoes in a landscape that was covered in coniferous forest, with an understory of ferns and other plants like large horsetails. Several other trees were present, such as ginkgos and araucarias. Some of the earliest flowering plants were also found here. Rivers and streams coming down from the flanks of the volcanoes fed into lakes in the valleys.[citation needed]

There were many species of small birdlike theropod dinosaurs living in the area, although most of them were slightly larger than Mei. This probably led to a lot of niche partitioning. There were only five or six species of herbivorous non-theropod dinosaurs, however, and a large and varied fauna of early mammals and pterosaurs. The apex predator was the 9-meter-long tyrannosauroid Yutyrannus, which would have preyed on the two or more species of sauropod. Often, volcanoes erupted, entombing animals in ash and suffocating others with carbon monoxide, which accounts for the high level of preservation of fossils.[citation needed]

Mei probably fed on small lizards and insects on the forest floor. It probably climbed trees as well to shelter from larger predators, and was probably not omnivorous. Judging by the length of the legs, it was a fast runner. Nothing is known about its nesting habits.[citation needed]

When the first fossil of Mei was discovered, scientists were charmed to see the fossil in a birdlike sleeping posture. Mei long means 'sleeping dragon' in Chinese. The animal had probably died from carbon monoxide poisoning, then became entombed in ash.[citation needed]


Most evidence points to Mei being a omnivore, and like some of its other relatives, it might have eaten leaves on occasion for some unknown reason. if Mei was a carnivore, it would eat rodents, lizards and other small animals, and maybe even hatchling dinosaurs. It may have also have been an egg thief.

In the Media[]

  • Mei Long made it's appearance in BBC's Prehistoric Park.
  • It also featured In a 2007 Documentary Mammals Vs Dinos: The Rise of Mammals.
  • Mei Long appeared on Dinosaur Train as a illustration.