Paleontologists may have found a missing offshoot between dinosaurs and birds: ScienceAlert

Amidst the remains of turtles and fish preserved in a fossil layer in southeast China, scientists have discovered a dinosaur skeleton with strange, bird-like features.

They are estimated to be about 30 million years older than any confirmed bird fossil, and this discovery could tell us a thing or two about the first crucial steps in their evolution.

Paleontologist Min Wang and colleagues compared the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ new paleontology named Fujianventure Miracle, with other dinosaur remains from that time and more recent ones to locate the animal within the dinosaur-bird family tree.

The researchers determined the size of the pheasant and that it was likely feathered Fujianvenator is a miracle It belongs to the avian group that includes modern birds and their most closely related ancestors of dinosaurs.

Remains of early bird ancestors like this are hard to come by, so they each hold important clues about the evolution of birds and the land environment they lived in.

The researchers named the group Fujianventure They are found in the Zhenghe fauna, recognizing the extraordinary diversity and unique composition found at that time and place in Earth’s history.

Reconstruction of a 150-million-year-old bird-like dinosaur (Zhao Zhuang)

For decades, 150-million-year-old dinosaur remains have been preserved Archeopteryx marked a critical early moment in the evolution of modern birds.

Now, researchers aren’t quite sure, as this famous feathered creature find has more in common with a group called Deinonychosauria than Avialae. With so few other bird-like fossils from this time, researchers can only guess what this early bird might have looked like.

They appear after a few million years Archeopteryx, Fujianventure It may at least have some answers, straddling the line between ancient dinosaurs and more modern birds.

pelvis Fujianventure Has features much like less bird-like dinosaurs, including the bizarre four-winged dinosaur Insurance. This means that Morphological transition from arms to wings It started very early in the ancestors of birds, when the legs were still doing different things, and that’s what it points to Fujianventure It branched off in a different direction than the one that led to the bird.

“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,” Wang explains.

“but, Fujianventure It is an alien species that deviated from this main course and evolved bizarre hind limb geometry.”

These long, elongated lower limbs and the fossils found are among the suggestions Fujianventure It was a long-legged swamp dweller or a high-speed runner.

Wading and running both benefit from these leg dimensions and, unfortunately, feet Fujianventure What might distinguish between these options is not clearly defined, so more fossil finds will be needed to confirm them.

But this is the first time a potential swamp bird has been identified. All other birds discovered by paleontologists to date have the traits of being tree dwellers.

This research has been published in nature.

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