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Feathery Four-winged Dinosaur Fossil Found In China Bridges Transition To Birds

Date:
September 29, 2009
Source:
Nature
Summary:
A fossil of a bird-like dinosaur with four wings has been discovered in northeastern China. The specimen bridges a critical gap in the transition from dinosaurs to birds, and reveals new insights into the origin evolution of feathers.

Top: Fossil of Anchiornis huxleyi from the province of Liaoning, China. Bottom: Artist's rendering.
Credit: Xing Xu

A fossil of a bird-like dinosaur with four wings has been discovered in northeastern China. The specimen bridges a critical gap in the transition from dinosaurs to birds, and reveals new insights into the origin evolution of feathers.

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The transition from dinosaurs to birds is poorly understood because of the lack of well-preserved fossils, and many scientists argue that bird-like dinosaurs appear too late in the fossil record to be the true ancestors of birds.

In the journal Nature this week, Xing Xu and colleagues describe an exceptionally well-preserved fossil of Anchiornis huxleyi from the province of Liaoning, China. Long feathers cover the arms and tail, but also the feet, suggesting that a four-winged stage may have existed in the transition to birds.

Anchiornis huxleyi was previously thought to be a primitive bird, but closer inspection reveals that it should be assigned to the Troodontidae — a group of dinosaurs closely related to birds.

The authors date the fossil to the earliest Late Jurassic, meaning that it is the oldest bird-like dinosaur reported so far, and older than Archaeopteryx, the earliest known bird.

They conclude that the presence of such a species at this time in the fossil record effectively disputes the argument that bird-like dinosaurs appeared too late to be the ancestors of birds.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Nature. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Dongyu Hu, Lianhai Hou, Lijun Zhang, Xing Xu. A pre-Archaeopteryx troodontid theropod from China with long feathers on the metatarsus. Nature, 2009; DOI: 10.1038/nature08322

Cite This Page:

Nature. "Feathery Four-winged Dinosaur Fossil Found In China Bridges Transition To Birds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 September 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090928205415.htm>.
Nature. (2009, September 29). Feathery Four-winged Dinosaur Fossil Found In China Bridges Transition To Birds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 29, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090928205415.htm
Nature. "Feathery Four-winged Dinosaur Fossil Found In China Bridges Transition To Birds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090928205415.htm (accessed March 29, 2015).

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