Origin of birds confirmed by exceptional new dinosaur fossils

September 25, 2009
Origin of birds confirmed by exceptional new dinosaur fossils

(PhysOrg.com) -- Chinese scientists today reveal the discovery of five remarkable new feathered dinosaur fossils which are significantly older than any previously reported. The new finds are indisputably older than Archaeopteryx, the oldest known bird, at last providing hard evidence that birds evolved from dinosaurs.

Talking from the conference in Bristol, Dr Xu Xing, lead scientist on the report published online in Nature today, said: “These exceptional fossils provide us with evidence that has been missing until now. Now it all fits neatly into place and we have tied up some of the loose ends”.

Professor Michael Benton, from the University of Bristol and one of the world’s leading experts on dinosaurs, commented: “This is one of the most exciting fossil discoveries in recent years. It’s like finding a missing piece of the jigsaw - suddenly the picture looks much more complete”.

Previous discoveries of dinosaur fossils with exquisitely preserved remains of feathers were undoubtedly some of the most important fossil finds ever made. At the time, many paleontologists considered this to be the Holy Grail that demonstrated once and for all that birds are highly derived dinosaurs.

Origin of birds confirmed by exceptional new dinosaur fossils

However, the oldest undisputed bird, Archaeopteryx, is older than the feathered dinosaurs previously found. Therefore, critics claimed, feathered dinosaurs could not have been ancestral to birds.

The new fossils are from two separate areas, named the Tiaojishan and Daohugou formations. Comparison of the Tiaojishan and Daohugou fossils suggests that they probably all belong to the same fauna. The isotopic dates range from 168 to 151 million years old for the Tiaojishan and 164 to 158 million years for the Daohugou Formation. Archaeopteryx lived 150-145 million years ago, so was significantly younger than these new dinosaurs.

One of the dinosaurs, named Anchiornis huxleyi has extensive plumage and profusely feathered feet. It provides important new information on the origins of birds and the evolution of feathers.

“This fossil provides confirmation that the bird-dinosaur hypothesis is correct and supports the idea that birds descended from theropod dinosaurs, the group of predatory dinosaurs that include Allosaurus and Velociraptor”, said Xu.

Provided by University of Bristol

Explore further: Prehistoric bird fossil found in China

Related Stories

Prehistoric bird fossil found in China

December 15, 2005

The fossil of a previously unknown water bird that lived some 125 million years ago has been found in sandstone near Inner Mongolia in northeast China.

Ancient Birds Flew On All-Fours

September 26, 2006

The earliest known ancestor of modern-day birds took to the skies by gliding from trees using primitive feathered wings on their arms and legs, according to new research by a University of Calgary paleontologist. In a paper ...

Feathers fly over new dinosaur find

March 18, 2009

The discovery of a petite, plant-eating dinosaur with primitive plumage could mean that the dinosaur from which all others evolved had feather-like protrusions, said a study released Wednesday.

Beaked, bird-like dinosaur tells story of finger evolution

June 17, 2009

James Clark, the Ronald B. Weintraub Professor of Biology in The George Washington University's Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, and Xu Xing, of the Chinese Academy of Science's Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology ...

Recommended for you

Biologists trace how human innovation impacts tool evolution

November 24, 2015

Many animals exhibit learned behaviors, but humans are unique in their capacity to build on existing knowledge to make new innovations. Understanding the patterns of how new generations of tools emerged in prehistoric societies, ...

First Londoners were multi-ethnic mix: museum

November 23, 2015

A DNA analysis of four ancient Roman skeletons found in London shows the first inhabitants of the city were a multi-ethnic mix similar to contemporary Londoners, the Museum of London said on Monday.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

3.4 / 5 (5) Sep 25, 2009
This is great news. It's just a shame that it won't convince the people who really need convincing, i.e. the dangerous creationist movement in the US.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.