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A small, bird-like dinosaur with surprisingly long lower legs has been discovered in China.
It is likely that this creature lived during the late Jurassic period, 148 million to 150 million years ago, in what is now Fujian Province in southeastern China.
His name is Fuijianvenator prodigiosus, which means “strange hunter”. From Latin “Fujian”, the creature had elongated legs that were twice as long as its thighs. And in most dinosaurs, the opposite is true.
The fossil, which weighs about 1.4 pounds (641 grams) and the size of a pheasant, is significant because it fills a gap in the fossil record close to the origin of birds, said Min Wang, lead author of the study published Wednesday in the journal. nature.
Birds diverged from the two-legged dinosaurs (the group to which T-Rex belongs) during the Jurassic period, but knowledge of their early evolutionary history is hampered by the relative lack of fossils from this time.
“The Fujianvenitor, due to its unique skeletal shape, sheds new light on the morphological development … in the earliest evolutionary stage of birds,” said Wang, a professor at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing.
A team of researchers from the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology and the Fujian Institute of Geological Survey at the site where the miracle Fujianvenator was discovered.
And in modern animals, an elongated lower leg is associated with species that can run fast, indicating that Fujianvenator may have been a high-speed runner, according to the study.
However, in birds, it is a trait also found in wading birds such as storks and cranes, making it possible for Fujianvenator to live in a swampy aquatic environment.
The fossil was found with fossils of other aquatic and semi-aquatic animals, including turtles and finned fish, indicating that it may have been suspended in swamps.
The study said other known bird-like dinosaurs lived in trees and were more aerial in nature.
Wang said that although there are no preserved feathers in the fossil, it is very likely that Fujianvenitor had these feathers because its closest relative in the dinosaur family tree did. He added that it is not possible to determine from the fossil whether the bird-like dinosaur could fly or not.