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China paleontologists: Archaeopteryx not ancestor of birds

08-08-2011 09:10 BJT

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New findings published recently in the British journal Nature suggest that archaeopteryx belongs to a dinosaur species that is not the ancestor of birds. A team of Chinese paleontologists at the Chinese Academy of Sciences conducted the research.

For 150 years, archaeopteryx has been considered, like most other dinosaurs, the ancestor of birds. But recently, Chinese paleontologists have discovered that archaeopteryx belongs to deinonychosauria, a clade of theropod, instead of the ancestor of birds.

The researchers were studying a newly discovered dinosaur species, the Xiaotingia zhengi. The previously unknown species of bird-like dinosaur found in northeastern China, lived 160 million years ago in the late Jurassic period, the same period with archaeopteryx.

Xu Xing, paleontologist of Chinese Academy of Sciences, said, "On one hand, the archaeopteryx bears much resemblance to the deinonychosauria. For example, archaeopteryx has a highly specialized claw on the ends of its forelimbs which can attack its enemies. On the other hand, Xiaotingia zhengi also looks like archaeopteryx very much, both of them have big holes called maxillary foramens in front of their eye sockets. Of course there are some other resemblances."

Chinese paleontologists have discovered that archaeopteryx belongs to deinonychosauria, a clade of theropod, instead of the ancestor of birds.

Xu Xing and his team set up a data matrix right after the discovery of Xiaotingia zhengi. They analyzed 89 species and 384 morphological characteristics of them during their research on the relations between them and their evolution. He said they finally reached the conclusion that archaeopteryx and Xiaotingia zhengi belong to the same species, and the two species should be put at the root of the group of deinonychosauria, but not birds.




Editor:Liu Fang |Source: CNTV.CN

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