Monday 17 December 2012

A new Long-tailed Bird from the Early Cretaceous of China.

Discovered in the 1860s, Archaeopteryx had a unique combination of features, including a long, feathery tail, that marked it out as distinctive, intermediate between a Dinosaur and a Bird, which sealed Archaeopteryx's status as the First Bird. While it remained unique in this way for a lone time, recent years have seen a number of new specimens of Long-tailed Birds, suggesting this was a distinct group of animals that survived from the mid-Jurassic to the end of the Cretaceous, though it is not completely clear that these are all closely related as some may in fact be small, feathery Dinosaurs.

In a paper published in the journal Acta Palaeontologica Polonica on 14 November 2012, Xia Wang of the School of Biology and Environmental Science at University College DublinGareth Dyke of Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre at the University of Southampton and Pascal Godefroit of the Institut royal des sciences naturelles de Belgique, describe a new Long-tailed Bird specimen from the Lower Cretaceous Yixian Formation at Yizhou Fossil and Geology Park in western Liaoning, China. 

The new specimen appears to be intermediate between two previously described species, Jeholornis prima and Jixiangornis orientalis, leading Wang et al. to conclude that the two species may in fact be different growth stages of the same animal, which therefore should be referred to as Jeholornis prima, since this was the first name used.

The new Long-tailed Bird specimen from Lioaning Province. Abbreviations: ad, alular digit; co, coracoid; cv, cervical vertebra; de, dentary; dv, dorsal vertebra; fe, femur; fi, fibula; fu, furcula; hu, humerus; is, ischium; j, jugal; la, lacrimal; ma, maxilla; mc, metacarpus; n, nasal; pm, premaxilla; pu, pubis; q, quadrate; ra, radius; sc, scapula; st, sternum; ta, tail; ti, tibiotarsus; tm, tarsometatarsus; ul, ulna; un, unguals. Wang et al. (2012).

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