U. SOUTHAMPTON (UK) — A new bird-like dinosaur from the Jurassic period adds to the debate on the origin of flight.
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 feathered dinosaurs from the older Middle-Late Jurassic period have reinforced this theory.
A new study describes a feathered dinosaur about 30 cm in length that pre-dates bird-like dinosaurs—from which birds were long thought to have evolved from.
The “bird-dinosaur” Eosinopteryx described in Nature Communications provides additional evidence to this effect.
“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 study co-author Gareth Dyke, a senior lecturer in vertebrate palaeontology at the University of Southampton, who is based at the National Oceanography Centre.
“Our findings suggest that the origin of flight was much more complex than previously thought.”
The fossilized remains found in northeastern China indicate that, while feathered, this was a flightless dinosaur, because its small wingspan and bone structure 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.
Source: University of Southampton