New bird species reveals stepping stone between dinosaurs and birds

How the dinosaurs took to the skies: Newly identified 127 million-year-old extinct bird species reveals an important stepping stone between dinosaurs and modern birds

  • This early fossil was from a time when birds had lost their long bony tail
  • But it was before animals evolved a fan of flight feathers on their shortened tail
  • Scientists named this well-preserved complete skeleton Jinguofortis perplexus 
  • e-mail

10

View
comments

A newly identified 127 million-year-old extinct bird species has revealed a crucial evolutionary stepping stone between ancient dinosaurs and modern birds.

The fossil, which was unearthed in northeastern China, provides new information about avian development during the early evolution of flight.

The early Cretaceous fossil dates to a time when birds had already lost their long bony tail, but before they evolved a fan of flight feathers on their shortened tail.


The fossil (left) was found in northeastern China and provides new information about avian development during the early evolution of flight. The scientists named this well-preserved complete skeleton Jinguofortis perplexus (artist’s impression, right) 

WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT JINGUOFORTIS PERPLEXUS?  

Jinguofortis derives from the Chinese word ‘jinguo,’ meaning female warrior, and the Latin word ‘fortis’ meaning brave.

Jinguofortis perplexus had a unique combination of traits, including a jaw with small teeth like its theropod dinosaur relatives.

 The new specimen also had evolved a bird-like short bony tail ending in a compound bone called a pygostyle.

Stones found in its gizzard reveal that it mostly ate plants and also had a third finger with only two bones, unlike other early birds.

The fossil’s shoulder joint also gives clues about its flight capacity.

In flying birds, the shoulder, which experiences high stress during flight, is a tight joint between unfused bones.

In contrast, Jinguofortis’s shoulder bones are fused to oneanother.

Based on its skeleton and feathers, Jinguofortis perplexus probably flew a bit differently than birds do today.

Measurement of the fossil’s wing size and estimation of its body mass show that the extinct species had a wing shape and wing-to-body ratio similar to living birds.

Scientists from the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences have named the well-preserved complete fossil Jinguofortis perplexus.

Jinguofortis is an amalgamation of the Chinese word ‘jinguo’, which means female warrior, and the Latin word ‘fortis’, meaning brave.

The latest findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

According to the researchers, Jinguofortis perplexus had a unique combination of traits, including a jaw with small teeth – like its theropod dinosaur relatives (a suborder of dinosaurs characterised by their hollow bones and three-toed limbs).

The two-legged theropod dinosaurs, such as Tyrannosaurus rex also had bird-like feet, a bird-like pelvis, and a ‘wishbone’ typical of birds.

Like birds, they also had hollow bones that may have contained air sacs used in breathing.

The new specimen had evolved a bird-like short bony tail ending in a compound bone called a pygostyle.

Stones found in its gizzard reveal that it mostly ate plants and also had a third finger with only two bones, unlike other early birds.

The fossil’s shoulder joint also gives clues about its flight capacity.

In flying birds, the shoulder, which experiences high stress during flight, is a tight joint between unfused bones.

In contrast, Jinguofortis’s shoulder bones are fused to one another.

  • Japanese robot rovers send back stunning photos back… Love at first blink! Scientists discover it takes just a…
  • What’s really inside the iPhone XS and XS Max: First…

Share this article

Based on its skeleton and feathers, Jinguofortis perplexus probably flew a bit differently than birds do today.

Measurement of the fossil’s wing size and estimation of its body mass show that the extinct species had a wing shape and wing-to-body ratio similar to living birds. 


Pictured are the major changes of the coracoid and scapula (main components of the shoulder girdle) across the major vertebrate groups. In flying birds, the shoulder, which experiences high stress during flight, is a tight joint between unfused bones

This latest find follows research from last month that revealed dinosaur DNA is the same as modern birds.

The ancient reptiles may have come in such different shapes and sizes because their genetic code had ‘a large number’ of chromosomes, scientists found.

This diversity helped them evolve quickly to changing climates, allowing them to dominate the planet for around 180 million years.

Using DNA from modern-day turtles and birds, researchers were able to piece together the history of DNA back more than 255 million years.

Scientists believe the way their DNA was organised may have provided dinosaurs with a ‘blueprint for evolutionary success’.

Researchers led by Professor Darren Griffin of the University of Kent’s School of Biosciences recreated what the genome structure of dinosaurs would have looked like under the microscope.

‘Having a lot of chromosomes enables dinosaurs to shuffle their genes around much more than other types of animals’, Professor Griffin told BBC.

‘This shuffling means that dinosaurs can evolve more quickly and so help them survive so long as the planet changed,’ he said.

WHAT KILLED THE DINOSAURS?

Around 65 million years ago non-avian dinosaurs were wiped out and more than half the world’s species were obliterated.

This mass extinction paved the way for the rise of mammals and the appearance of humans.

The Chicxulub asteroid is often cited as a potential cause of the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event.

The asteroid slammed into a shallow sea in what is now the Gulf of Mexico.

The collision released a huge dust and soot cloud that triggered global climate change, wiping out 75 per cent of all animal and plan species.

Researchers claim that the soot necessary for such a global catastrophe could only have come from a direct impact on rocks in shallow water around Mexico, which are especially rich in hydrocarbons.

Within 10 hours of the impact, a massive tsunami waved ripped through the Gulf coast, experts believe.


Around 65 million years ago non-avian dinosaurs were wiped out and more than half the world’s species were obliterated. The Chicxulub asteroid is often cited as a potential cause of the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event (stock image)

This caused earthquakes and landslides in areas as far as Argentina.

But while the waves and eruptions were  The creatures living at the time were not just suffering from the waves – the heat was much worse.

While investigating the event researchers found small particles of rock and other debris that was shot into the air when the asteroid crashed.

Called spherules, these small particles covered the planet with a thick layer of soot.

Experts explain that losing the light from the sun caused a complete collapse in the aquatic system.

This is because the phytoplankton base of almost all aquatic food chains would have been eliminated.

It’s believed that the more than 180 million years of evolution that brought the world to the Cretaceous point was destroyed in less than the lifetime of a Tyrannosaurus rex, which is about 20 to 30 years.

 

 

Source: Read Full Article