Paleontologists have discovered a strange new species of bird-like dinosaur

Life reconstruction of the 150-million-year-old theropod bird Elephant Fujianvenator is a miracle.Credit: Chuang Zhao

A new theropod bird, 150 million years old, Fujianvenator is a miraclewas discovered in China, and provides new insights into the evolution of early and late birds Jurassic terrestrial ecosystem.

Birds descended from theropod dinosaurs of the late Jurassic period, but our understanding of the earliest evolution of Avialae, the clade that includes all but not all modern birds Deinonychus or Troodon, hampered by the limited diversity of fossils from the Jurassic period. (A clade is a group of organisms consisting of a single common ancestor and all its descendants, representing a single branch on the “tree of life.”)

To date, no specific birds have been reported except for the Yanliao biotope of the Middle and Late Jurassic in northeastern China (166–159 million years ago; Ma) and the slightly younger German Limestone of Solnhofen, which preserves Archeopteryx. As a result, there is a gap of about 30 million years before the planet’s oldest known record Cretaceous period the birds. However, Jurassic birds are the key to deciphering the evolutionary origin of this distinctive avian body plan. More importantly, they are key to reconciling the evolutionary debate about the origin of birds.

Elephant theropod Fujianvenator Prodigyusus, 150 million years old

Photograph and interpretive line drawing of a 150-million-year-old theropod bird Elephant Fujianvenator is a miracle, with the breed and the ancient map showing the location of the Zhenghe (red star) animals. Credit: Min Wang

New discovery

A joint research team from the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing and the Fujian Institute of Geological Survey (FIGS) described and analyzed a new 150-million-year-old flying theropod from Chenghe Province. , Fujian Province.

The results were published in nature on Sept. 6.

the new classifythe name of the thing Fujianvenator is a miracledisplays a curious array of shapes that are shared with other birds, troodontids, and dromaeosaurs, illustrating the influence of evolutionary mosaicism in the evolution of early birds.

Morphometric space of body plan and velocity in Fujianvenator Prodigyusus

Morphometric space for body plan and velocity Fujianvenator is a miracle, compared with other theropods of the Mesozoic Era. Credit: Min Wang

Unique Fujianvenator morphology

“Our comparative analyzes show that the observed changes in body plan occurred along the early flight line, which is largely driven by the forelimbs, eventually giving rise to the typical avian limb proportion,” said Dr. the study. “but, Fujianventure is an alien species that deviated from this main course and evolved bizarre hind limb geometry.

The surprisingly long lower leg and other shapes, as well as other geological observations, indicate this Fujianventure It lived in a swamp-like environment and was a high-speed runner or long-legged wader, representing an environment previously unknown to early flight birds.

Discovery of the stratigraphic record and vertebrate fossil assemblage in the Chenghe fauna of the late Jurassic period

The stratigraphic record and assemblage of vertebrate fossils unearthed in the Chenghe fauna of the late Jurassic period. Credit: Min Wang

Geological context and archeology

“next to FujianventureWe found others plentiful vertebrates“Including teleosts, testudines, and choristoderes,” said Liming Xu of FIGS, lead author of the study.

During the late Jurassic and early Cretaceous periods, southeastern China underwent intense tectonic activities due to subduction of the ancient Pacific plate, which led to widespread magma propagation and concurrent rift depression basins. Fujianventure is found. This geological background is basically the same as it was in the late Jurassic in northern and northeastern China, where the earliest Yanliao biota were preserved.

Dr Zhonghe Zhou of IVPP, co-author of the study, said: “The exceptional diversity, unique composition of vertebrates, and archaic ecology strongly suggest that this region harbors a wild fauna, which we named Zhenghe Fauna.” Isotope dating and stratigraphic surveys at the site place the Chenghe fauna to the period 150 to 148 million years ago. So, Fujianventure It documents one of the smallest and most recent members of Jurassic Flight in the far south.

The discovery of Zhenghe fauna opens a new window on the planet’s late Jurassic terrestrial ecosystem, and the joint research team of IVPP and FIGS plans to continue exploring Zhenghe and its vicinity.

Reference: “New Avian Theropods from Emerging Jurassic Terrestrial Fauna” by Liming Xu, Min Wang, Runsheng Chen, Liping Dong, Min Lin, Xing Xu, Jianrong Tang, Hailu You, Guowu Zhou, Linchang Wang, Wenxing He, Yujuan Li, Chi Chang and Zhonghee Chu, September 6, 2023, Available here. nature.
doi: 10.1038/s41586-023-06513-7

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