Feathered dinosaur puts theory in doubt
Fri, 25 Jan 2013 11:15a.m.
By Dan Satherley
The discovery of a feathered – and completely flightless – dinosaur from the Jurassic period has cast doubt on previous theories on how birds evolved from dinosaurs.
The 30cm-long Eosinopteryx lived around 140 million years ago, says Gareth Dyke, senior lecturer in vertebrate palaeontology at the University of Southampton.
The flightless dinosaur predates other dinosaurs that were believed to have evolved into flying birds in the early Cretaceous period, which followed the Jurassic period in which Eosinopteryx lived.
"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 Dyke.
Eosinopteryx's remains were found in northeastern China. It had a small wingspan and a bone structure that ruled out flying. Instead, its leg and tail feathers would have made it suitable for running along the ground quickly.
"Our findings suggest that the origin of flight was much more complex than previously thought," says Dr Dyke.
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5/02/2013 1:07:07 p.m.
This article's banner is misleading. The fossil does not put the Theropod theory of bird evolution into doubt, it strengthens it. The fossil has been identified unequivocaly as a theropod, a basal Troodontid in fact.What this discovery does do is push the origins of 'birds' (a popular rather than a scientific name) and feathers further back than previously thought. It also seems to suggest, given the unusual arrangement of the wing bones and 'patchy' coverage of feathers, that feathers may have evolved for streamlining in cursorial running and/or sexual display. The wing-assisted flapping hypothesis may still be viable for more derived taxa of feathered theropods (like Archaeopteryx). In any case the richness of the Theropod clade, even in the Jurassic is neatly illustrated by Eosinopteryx.
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