New dinosaur fossil challenges bird evolution theory

January 24, 2013
This is a reconstruction of Eosinopteryx. Credit: Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences

(Phys.org)—The discovery of a new bird-like dinosaur from the Jurassic period challenges widely accepted theories on the origin of flight.

Co-authored by Dr Gareth Dyke, Senior Lecturer in Vertebrate Palaeontology at the University of Southampton, the paper describes a new feathered dinosaur about 30 cm in length which pre-dates bird-like dinosaurs that birds were long 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 from the older Middle-Late have reinforced this theory.

The new 'bird-dinosaur' Eosinopteryx described in Nature Communications this week provides additional evidence to this effect.

"This discovery sheds further doubt on the theory that the famous fossil – or "first bird" as it is sometimes referred to – was pivotal in the evolution of modern birds," says Dr Dyke, who is based at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton.

"Our findings suggest that the origin of flight was much more complex than previously thought."

The fossilised remains found in north-eastern China indicate that, while feathered, this was a flightless dinosaur, because of its small and a that would have restricted its ability to flap its wings.

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.

Explore further: Origin of birds confirmed by exceptional new dinosaur fossils

More information: www.nature.com/ncomms/journal/v4/n1/full/ncomms2389.html

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4 comments

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C_elegans
5 / 5 (2) Jan 24, 2013
What? Archaeopteryx could have evolved from this "warm" species, no?
Why wouldn't feathers have evolved before flight? I'm missing something.

-elegans
evolution3
5 / 5 (2) Jan 25, 2013
Oh my...the title is a bit misleading isn't it?It maybe change how the evolution of flight worked...or maybe not.There was an article around a short time ago, which said that Archaeopteryx was bad at flying.So why exactly is it a problem, that this feathered dinosaur was supposedly flightless?
PJS
5 / 5 (2) Jan 25, 2013
just because Archaeopteryx may not have been the first feathered dinosaur doesn't mean it wasn't pivotal in the evolution of flight. in fact, ALL feathered dinosaurs were pivotal to the evolution of flight. duh
Torbjorn_Larsson_OM
5 / 5 (1) Jan 25, 2013
Agree with PJS. Archaeopteryx was later, but shows how the clades around what was to become the surviving birds were birds of a feather flocking together.

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