January 24th, 2013 by James Ayre
Fossils of a new bird-like dinosaur that lived during the Jurassic have been discovered in China, and they are completely upending the currently most widely accepted theories on the origin of birds.
The fossils are of a previously unknown feathered dinosaur that is around 30 cm in length and completely pre-dates the bird-like dinosaurs that modern birds have long been thought to have evolved from.
“Over many years, it has become accepted among palaeontologists that birds evolved from a group of dinosaurs called theropods from the Early Cretaceous period of Earth’s history, around 120-130 million years ago. Recent discoveries of feathered dinosaurs from the older Middle-Late Jurassic period have reinforced this theory.”
The newly discovered ‘bird-dinosaur’ Eosinopteryx is providing new evidence in this regard.
“This discovery sheds further doubt on the theory that the famous fossil Archaeopteryx — or “first bird” as it is sometimes referred to — was pivotal in the evolution of modern birds,” says Dr Gareth Dyke, who is based at the National Oceanography Center, Southampton.
“Our findings suggest that the origin of flight was much more complex than previously thought.”
The new fossils, that were discovered in north-eastern China, make it clear that while this species was feathered, it was most definitely flightless. This is owing to its small wingspan and the structure of its bones, which would have made flapping its wings very difficult.
“The dinosaur also had toes suited to walking along the ground and fewer feathers on its tail and lower legs, which would have made it easier to run.”
The discovery was just described in a paper published in the journal Nature Communications.
Source: University of Southampton
Image Credits: Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences
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