‘Unusual’ dinosaur prompts rethinking of fowl evolution

'Strange' dinosaur prompts rethinking of bird evolution

100 and fifty million years in the past, a small bird-like dinosaur in regards to the measurement of a bantam sank in a swamp in what’s now southeastern China and succumbed. Its fossilized stays have been found in 2022 and named FujianVinator MiracleIt seems to be one of many oldest bird-like dinosaurs so far from the Jurassic interval. The researchers describe their discovery in a paper revealed in the present day in nature.

“This can be a actually unusual animal within the fowl group,” says Mark Lewin, a paleontologist on the College of Utah in Salt Lake Metropolis, who was not concerned within the discovery.

The creature had surprisingly skinny legs and doubtless lacked the flexibility to fly. It additionally appears inconsistent with the accepted story of fowl evolution.

Though dinosaurs have been largely extinct 66 million years in the past, theropods, the group with three claws and hole bones that included… Velociraptor And Tyrannosaurus rex, started to evolve into in the present day’s birds. Many paleontologists take into account the primary fowl to be a 150-million-year-old feathered dinosaur referred to as ArcheopteryxIts fossils have been present in Germany. However this research provides to the rising proof that by… ArcheopteryxLewin says dinosaurs had already diversified into several types of birds.

Within the Jurassic interval, bird-like dinosaurs could have occupied completely different ecological niches, says Hailu Yu, a paleontologist on the Chinese language Academy of Sciences in Beijing and one of many paper’s co-authors. “Early fowl improvement is complicated,” he says.

fujianventureThe dinosaur fossil lacks a whole head or tail, however its physique and limbs present a mix of options just like these of different bird-like dinosaurs, such because the relative lengths of the digits, and the main points of the pelvis and vertebrae.

Nevertheless it didn’t have many modifications that might contribute to flight. For instance, it had a brief shoulder blade and fingers extra specialised for greedy. Strangest of all are the fowl’s hyper-elongated hind legs, the place the decrease leg bone – the tibia – is twice the size of the femur. Such lengthy legs point out a really expert runner, maybe resembling a street runner (geocoxex spp.), says Bharat Anjan Bhullar, a paleontologist at Yale College in New Haven, Connecticut.

Alternatively, these pillars may have been used for wading. Within the space the place fujianventure The researchers additionally found a wide range of swamp creatures, which they referred to as Zhenghe animals. These fossils included fish, turtles, and different aquatic reptiles. The marshes have been a beforehand unknown habitat for early birds. To determine whether or not the fowl’s leg is an adaptation to life in swamps or high-speed operating, researchers might want to study the ends of its toes for indicators of calluses, however these toes are poorly preserved. The authors write that each eventualities are equally doable.

The truth that the dinosaur was discovered in any respect was a stroke of luck. Researchers found the fossil at a web site close to Nanping in Fujian Province, the place no dinosaurs had been discovered earlier than. Examples of bird-like dinosaurs from the late Jurassic interval are uncommon as a result of their hole bones are fragile and never properly preserved. Fossilization requires supreme circumstances, such because the absence of oxygen to stop decay, which lakes or swamps can present.

As a result of shortage of fossils, fujianventure This helps fill in some gaps in early fowl improvement, Bhullar says. “Even of their early levels, the earliest fowl fossils have been various in fascinating methods.”

“There are lots of, lots of this stuff that haven’t been found,” he says. “We’ve solely scratched the floor of the anatomical and way of life range of those animals.”

This text has been reproduced with permission First published On September 6, 2023.



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