Bird-Like Dinosaur Sported Bizarre Tail Feathers

By | October 24, 2008

Bird-Like Dinosaur Sported Bizarre Tail Feathers

A pigeon-sized dinosaur that lived more than 100 million years ago sported four ribbon-like tail feathers that likely helped the creature balance on tree branches.

That picture comes from a fossil of a nearly complete skeleton and the well-preserved feathers of Epidexipteryx hui, discovered in Inner Mongolia, China. The finding, detailed in the Oct. 23 issue of the journal Nature, fills in gaps about the transition from non-avian dinosaurs to birds.

Although scientists are not positive about the dates for the sediments that the skeleton was found in, researchers suspect the dinosaur lived some time around 152 million to 168 million years ago during the Middle to Late Jurassic Period. That makes the remains slightly older than Archaeopteryx, long considered the oldest bird, which lived about 150 million years ago.

“Although this dinosaur cannot be the direct ancestor for birds, it is one of the dinosaurs that have the closest phylogenetic relationship to birds,” said researcher Zhonghe Zhou of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing. “Therefore, it could provide a lot of information about the transition process from dinos to birds,” including changes in the tail and feathers.

He added, “This find confirms the link between dinosaurs and birds, and indicates that we are getting closer and closer to the details of the transition from dinos to birds.” – yahoo

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