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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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  • 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 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 Conanymous Award (597667) on Monday September 28, 2009 @10:09AM (#29565197)
    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.
  • 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 Anonymous Coward on Monday September 28, 2009 @12:11PM (#29566987)
    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.

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