Missing Link Between Bird and Dinosaur Found?

ArchaeopteryxWhen I came across this piece of news, my mind immediately fell to the Archaeopteryx. This was a bird/dinosaur combo that flew around 65 million years ago or so. It was purported to be the missing link between birds and reptiles. Apparently, they found another type of these flying reptiles in China.

“The extensive feathering of this specimen, particularly the attachment of long pennaceous feathers to the pes, sheds new light on the early evolution of feathers and demonstrates the complex distribution of skeletal and integumentary features close to the dinosaur-bird transition”, researchers from the Shenyang Normal University wrote.

The fossil is 160 million years old, and is the oldest of its kind to be found so far. At that date, it is millions of years older than the archaeopteryx, putting it at the forefront of being the missing link instead.

Discoveries before this one had put archaeologists in a little bit of a temporal pickle because the fossils found were younger than the fossils of birds they had found. So that didn’t really work out so well. What might have happened is birds and reptiles splitting off evolutionarily from this guy millions of years before, and then you’d have both the hybrids and the birds showing up in the fossil record after. The only thing that could mess up the chronology now would be a 160 million year old bird fossil.

The research findings will also be published in “Nature” magazine on Oct. 1. Take a look at it there for a more in depth survey.

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