New Fossil Stirs Evolutionary Revision
Archaeopteryx likely wasn't first bird
A fossil recently discovered in China has scientists questioning which species first made the evolutionary transition from dinosaur to bird. Researchers have long believed that Archaeopteryx, a feathered animal with lizard-like features, bridged the gap. (Is is also the namesake of gear company Arc`teryx.) But palaeontologists in China have discovered a feathered fossil, Xiaotingia zhengi, that appears closely related to both Archaeopteryx and dinosaurs Velociraptor and Microraptor. In linking Archaeopteryx to a species clearly in the dinosaur category, the research hints that Archaeopteryx may have been a cousin, and not a forefather, of the world's earliest birds. "[W]e've learned Archaeopteryx's uniquely avian traits weren't so unique," says Ohio University professor Lawrence Witmer.
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