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Earth Science

4-Winged Proto-Bird Unearthed In China; Predates Archaeopteryx 140

Posted by timothy
from the four-wings-perhaps-the-earliest-insult dept.
Wired reports on a find described September 24 in a note at Nature and the day after at the annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology: a dinosaur fossil bearing true feathers on four limbs. The fossil was discovered in northeastern China, in strata believed to have been deposited between 151 million and 161 million years ago. If that estimate is correct, the newly discovered Anchiornis huxleyi is at least one million years older than the believed age of the more famous winged dinosaur Archaeopteryx.
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4-Winged Proto-Bird Unearthed in China; Predates Archaeopteryx

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  • by flubba (1035146) on Monday September 28, 2009 @08:19AM (#29564213) Homepage
    8-Winged Meta-Bird?
  • Well then (Score:1, Funny)

    by Capsy (1644737)

    We're all doomed if they manage to bring these birds back to life in the future. This is almost as bad as flying mantas.

  • PBS covered this... (Score:5, Informative)

    by cptdondo (59460) on Monday September 28, 2009 @08:22AM (#29564229) Journal

    like a year ago on Nova.

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/microraptor/program.html [pbs.org]

    And from the documentary, it was obvious that the discovery had been made some time prior to the making of the show.

    So this is old news. I guess dinosaur news travels slowly.

    • by Lord Lode (1290856) on Monday September 28, 2009 @08:24AM (#29564245)
      A week ago this news was on Belgian news channels, so there must be something this week that makes it news now.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 28, 2009 @08:47AM (#29564407)

      I also remember watching that document and was fascinated. However, a few wordings from TFA are interesting.

      In fact it does refer to the microraptor (which parent's link is about). "A similar configuration has been seen in other feathered dinosaurs, including Microraptor* (SN: 1/27/07, p. 53) and Archaeopteryx (SN: 9/23/06, p. 197)." So they know it is similar to earlier findings.

      "...is the oldest known to have sported feathers and is estimated to be between 1 million and 11 million years older than Archaeopteryx, the first known bird..."

      So they have found yet another feathered, four winged dinosaur. All such findings help us understand more of them. In addition, this one appears to be older than the previous findings which again gives us a bit better image of what happened and when. I'm interested to see how this thing is different from microraptor. So they seem to have made findings that are nothing revolutionary but give us again a bit better image of what has happened, how and when. Probably some news sources misinterpreted that to mean much more than it does

      (*: Should not be confused with mircoraptor, which is a type of predator mostly residing in IRC chatrooms and preying on teenagers)

    • by AndersOSU (873247) on Monday September 28, 2009 @09:12AM (#29564593)

      hey back off, on an evolutionary time scale, that's lightning fast.

    • by oGMo (379) on Monday September 28, 2009 @09:26AM (#29564719)

      So this is old news. I guess dinosaur news travels slowly.

      Are you kidding? The story comes 151 million years after the fact! And that wasn't even the release date!

    • Sorry, microraptor (covered in the nova story) dates from the early Cretaceous, well after Archaeopteryx. This new find dates from the late Jurassic but pre-dates Archaeopteryx finds. This fossil was just found this year. Not every four winged dinosaur with feathers is the same. Jeeze.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Just one problem: we're talking about two different animals here. The PBS critter is Microraptor, found in at least 2003, while the new four-wing in TFA is Anchiornis (and it's older than Microraptor, which is an important part of the story).

      It's not the news that's slow here.
    • This was a different winged dinosaur than the one on the PBS Show.

    • They should get a time lens [slashdot.org] to make the news travel faster.

  • Fake (Score:1, Funny)

    by Haxzaw (1502841)
    My sister's husband's brother's cousin knew a kid who met a Chinese kid on the internet who said he was part of the team that made this thing. Those Chinese can make anything.
    • i was in beijing 10 years ago, and we visited an archaeological site, conveniently located just over an hour outside town, that claimed to house fossilized remains proving that China was actually the birthplace of the human race. it was pretty awesome.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jc42 (318812)

        ... in beijing 10 ... archaeological site... fossilized remains proving that China was actually the birthplace of the human race.

        Actually, with only a small amount of rephrasing, that's not much in conflict with one of the two competing theories of human development. One is the "Out of Africa" theory, that Africa has always been the center of human development, with people and their genes moving out of Africa, but rarely the other direction. The other is the "multi-center" theory, that people spread from

        • ...yeah, there's a huge difference between 'some homo sapiens evolved here' and 'upright-walking hominids originated here.' guess which of these i was talking about?
        • Most of the research I've seen, in particular the genetic research, points to a single origin hypothesis. That is, the theory that there was a population center in Africa that emerged about 50,000-60,000 years ago.

          See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recent_African_origin_of_modern_humans [wikipedia.org] vs. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiregional_origin_of_modern_humans [wikipedia.org]

          A competing theory, the recent African origin of modern humans (also known as "Out of Africa"), has emerged as the near consensus view since the 1990s

          • by jc42 (318812)

            I noticed quickly that those wikipedia articles talk a lot about mtDNA and Y-DNA evidence. It's true that a lot has beet written on that topic. But I've gotten a distinct impression that people who understand DNA tend to just grin when they hear that, and change the topic to something less silly. Yes, it's likely that our mtDNA and Y-DNA had their origins in a couple of small places, almost certainly in Africa. But that's less than 1% of our DNA, and it doesn't take part in genetic recombination. While

            • Do you have any examples of people who "understand DNA" who don't take this research seriously? It is because this DNA doesn't recombine that it is used for this research. Other parts of our DNA can't be used this way.

  • Hoo Hum... (Score:2, Funny)

    by Bentov (993323)
    *Yawn* wake me when they find a Yeti....
  • One massive problem (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Where are all the transitional species? Everyone actually agrees that Archaeopteryx is a dead end so where are the primitive birds? The problem is the date for feathers keeps getting pushed back and there have even been early lizards found with what appear to be feathers. One massive gap is if birds evolved from dinosaurs where are all the tree dwelling dinos? The only ones seem to be Archaeopteryx and related protobirds. Odds are birds branched off very early on and were a separate line of evolution so say

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Pikoro (844299)
      who are you? that kid from Jurassic Park who keeps asking about "that other guy's" book?
    • probably goes back to the time we were all essentially lizards.

      Were lizards? You obviously don't know the people I work with...

      • You mean, you're working with werelizards? Do they go hhissssshsshhissssing at the moon?
        • You know, even as I was writing that comment, I figured someone would say something about werelizards. I mean, I would have.
    • by egomaniac (105476) on Monday September 28, 2009 @11:00AM (#29565815) Homepage

      Where are all the transitional species?

      This is an old, tired anti-evolutionary argument. The answer is that every single fossil we find is a transitional species. Unfortunately fossilization is an incredibly unlikely event, and a fossil surviving for tens of millions of years and then happening to be uncovered even more incredibly unlikely, so the fossil record simply doesn't contain every species that ever existed. We may never find the real ancestor of all modern birds, just cousins of it like Archaeopteryx. So what? The fact that birds evolved from dinosaurs is irrefutable.

      The problem is the date for feathers keeps getting pushed back and there have even been early lizards found with what appear to be feathers.

      I assume you're referring to Longisquama. There is good reason to doubt that those structures were even real, let alone feathers.

      One massive gap is if birds evolved from dinosaurs where are all the tree dwelling dinos?

      What are you talking about? First, the division between "bird" and "dinosaur" is entirely arbitrary. Birds, in a very real sense, ARE dinosaurs. We just draw an arbitrary line in the sand and say the things on one side are dinosaurs and the things on the other side are birds, but there's no hard and fast reason to draw the line at any particular spot. Archaeopteryx really doesn't look all that different from the raptors that came before it, and still has a very dinosaur-like head and no beak. Is it a bird?

      Early birds were likely ground dwellers, just like the raptors they evolved from. We don't know precisely when tree-dwelling evolved, because we don't have enough fossils to be able to tell. I fail to see how this is a "massive gap"; it's a minor question at best.

      Odds are birds branched off very early on and were a separate line of evolution so saying birds evolved from dinosaurs is kind of like saying we evolved from chimpanzee.s

      Nonsense. Saying birds evolved from Archaeopteryx would be like saying we evolved from chimps -- not all that far wrong, but wrong. Saying birds evolved from dinosaurs is like saying we evolved from primates. Dinosaurs are a very, very big group, and there is absolutely no doubt that birds evolved from them.

      • by Belial6 (794905) on Monday September 28, 2009 @01:22PM (#29568163)
        You miss the poster's point. He isn't saying that evolution didn't happen. He is positing that he believes the divergence happened WAY sooner than what the 'consensus' claims. He believes that having feathers and not having feathers is a large enough evolutionary gap, and we have enough fossils from the currently believed deliverance period, that if the time line were correct, we would see a lot of intermediary fossils.

        To poster isn't saying that birds didn't evolve from dinosaurs. He is saying that he believes that by just saying 'evolved from dinosaurs' implies that it happened towards the middle or end of their existence as opposed to the beginning. This leads to many people making a perfectly reasonable but incorrect conclusion as to when it happened, while adding nothing to those that correctly understand the statement. Since, if the divergence happened as early as the poster believes, basically all complex animals evolved from 'dinosours'. Since the statement adds nothing for those who are not confused by it, but gives the wrong conclusion to people who are confused by it, from a pragmatic standpoint, it is wrong.

        Of course, it being right or wrong depends on when birds actually first appeared. I'm not arguing that. I'm just pointing out that you are misunderstanding the parent poster.
      • by BitZtream (692029)

        The fact that birds evolved from dinosaurs is irrefutable.

        And the Earth is irrefutably flat.

        Science doesn't make retarded assumptions like that, we keep looking until we CAN prove it. If we just made assumptions based on what we know currently, we'd not only get a lot of stuff wrong, we'd get many many more things wrong in the future and get more confused as things got more and more out of touch with reality based on using old, incorrect assumptions as if they were fact.

        We discovered new evidence that the

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jc42 (318812)

        Archaeopteryx really doesn't look all that different from the raptors that came before it, and still has a very dinosaur-like head and no beak. Is it a bird?

        Back in the 1970s, when (Yale professor) John Ostrom was reviving the old debate over the relationship between birds and dinosaurs, he brought up a funny and informative piece of evidence: He pointed out that we actually had more Archaeopterix fossils than we thought. There were found in museums in Europe, classified as small dinosaurs.

        He suggested th

      • Early birds were likely ground dwellers, just like the raptors they evolved from. We don't know precisely when tree-dwelling evolved, because we don't have enough fossils to be able to tell. I fail to see how this is a "massive gap"; it's a minor question at best.

        Your arguments are well-reasoned, and backed by good science, but this is where you and evolution FAIL. Birds living on the ground? HAH! Everyone knows birds live in TREES, even now! Next you'll be saying that there are birds that do not fly. Bi
    • Wait, is this one of those apologetics posts where someone needs to "discuss" creationism for a class? Can you at least make a handle? You're giving ACs a bad name.

  • four wings? (Score:2, Funny)

    by lamehero (1645121)
    so i guess two wings didn't do the job of flight for this proto birds
    • by dwye (1127395)

      > so i guess two wings didn't do the job of flight for this proto birds

      It had no wings, just arms, and the feathers were there for insulation, not flying.

  • Possible Dead end. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jellomizer (103300) on Monday September 28, 2009 @08:45AM (#29564381)

    It could also be a dead end in development.

    Sometimes evolutionary traits come up early then the creature dies out only to be "re-evolved" later.

    There sometimes seems to be a misunderstanding in evolution. Concepts the strongest survives, or evolution will only get better and better. Doesn't always fall true. One minor disadvantage could kill you out, allowing the weak creature to exist and thrive without your presence. Or even good traits that get killed off only to come back again.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by maxume (22995)

      Throwing out terms like strong and weak and simply talking about fitness for a given environment makes it easier.

    • It could also be a dead end in development.

      You mean like Windows ME?

    • by corbettw (214229)

      Hey, no one ever said God was a very intelligent designer.

  • Ha (Score:5, Insightful)

    by elrous0 (869638) * on Monday September 28, 2009 @09:14AM (#29564619)
    Anyone find it a little amusing that a species found in a totalitarian country is given the specific name huxleyi?
  • did you ever think why these so-called missing links are dead and buried in the ground? god killed them, that's why. doesn't that teach you anything? THEY AREN'T HERE ANYMORE. don't you wonder why that is and why you shouldn't dig this stuff up? god killed them fair and square. who gives you the right to mess around with god's intention?

    • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

      by palegray.net (1195047)
      Good trolls incorporate an element of subtlety; this isn't anywhere near your best work, man :).
      • i tried, i failed

        not many people understand how hard it is to fake real genuine stupidity

        its a kind of genius, the troll that can feign true and convincing retardedness

    • by oldhack (1037484)
      If the God didn't intend us to dig these shit up, he wouldn't have given us shovels.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Possums are a good example of the less 'fit' surviving. They are not terribly strong, fit or intelligent. They are however survivors that can reproduce when other animals are struggling.
    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Possums, or at least the species we have in the US, are tough, nasty, and vicious. They're more than a match for the toughest alley cat and can take mess up dogs twice their size; it's only against larger predators that they feign death. They're pretty stupid, but strong for their size and despite being marsupials quite fit. Their population range in the US is spreading, not shrinking, and they adapt well to urban areas.
  • Margin of Error (Score:4, Interesting)

    by immakiku (777365) on Monday September 28, 2009 @09:33AM (#29564797)
    Not that this is really relevant, but if the margin of error was about 5 million years, how are they confident to say that it was 1 million year older?
    • is estimated to be between 1 million and 11 million years older than Archaeopteryx, the first known bird.

    • Well, not that I have checked, but perhaps they can tell that specimen A is older than specimen B by a significant amount due to the stratigraphy of the specimens, even though they can't say how old specimen A or specimen B is with any great precision.
  • The defective 4 winged bird was... made in China.

    • The defective 4 winged bird was... made in China.

      Poor critter. From the pics, it looked like the battery just, well, exploded. That ought to teach them not to use cheap Chinese knockoffs.

  • Siamese (Score:1, Insightful)

    by AniVisual (1373773)

    If humans can have conjoined twins and occurrences where one developing foetus is absorbed into another resulting in additional limbs and anatomy, why can't prehistoric animals have them too? This may no more be a defect in the phenotype than true genetic drift

  • by T.E.D. (34228) on Monday September 28, 2009 @11:12AM (#29565983)

    The really depressing thing is the article comments. It seems the Creationists found out about the article, and are pinging the bejeezus out of it in the comments.

    My personal favorite bit of ignorance starts like this:

    am nor a scientist or even an academic of any kind but as I understand it and please tell me if I am wrong but for a Theory to become fact it has to ...

    *raaaaaaaaz*! Thanks for playing.

    • by mayko (1630637)
      This person actually convinced me that evolution does not exist with their flawless idea for experiment.

      Heres why I do not beleive in evolution. If I had two, lets say Penguins for arguments sake. If I bread these two penguins in a big deep hole with a ledge with their food on say, two feet out of reach of the penguin then how many generations would it take for the Penguins to Evolve into a creature that is capable of getting the food off the ledge? Also wouldnt they just die out while they couldnt get the

      • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        ...If I bread these two penguins in a big deep hole...

        Isn't it obvious? God would grant them flight, and we would get a new species.

        But how would they fly with those seven herbs and spices all over them?

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by jc42 (318812)

        Isn't it obvious? God would grant them flight, and we would get a new species.

        Too late; it's already happened [youtube.com].

        [Note the March 31, 2008 date on the video. ;-]

  • According to the article it is the evolutionary stage before birds like today? What type of flight did they have with all these wings? Anyone pick this info up?
  • I've heard some modern birds will occassionally be born with feathers on its legs. This is thought due to a gene not yet completely removed from the genome, but deeply repressed. These kind of mutations are called avatar traits in the literature.

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