Maybe birds did not descend from dinosaurs

Scansoriopteryx

New research suggests evidence against the widespread hypothesis that birds descended directly from dinosaurs. The study, published in the Journal of Ornithology, used advanced scanning techniques to reveal the bone structure of Scansoriopteryx, an early ancestor of birds illustrated above, showing important differences from dinosaur skeletons. Read more about this story on Sci-News.

Almost as fascinating as this idea is the controversy surrounding Scansoriopteryx and the people researching it. There is confusion about what geological formation the Scansoriopteryx fossil came from and the date of the rock. The creature may or may not have preceded the more famous ancestral bird, Archaeopteryx, which lived 150 million years ago. However, several fossil creatures from as much as 10 million years earlier seem to support birds evolving from dinosaurs.

The authors of this study, Alan Feduccia of the University of North Carolina and Stephen Czerkas of the Dinosaur Museum in Blanding, Utah, would place avian ancestry firmly in the trees. This group of small, gliding, feathered reptiles would have appeared before dinosaurs ever walked the Earth. The physiology of Scansoriopteryx has previously led Czerkas and Chongxi Yuan to speculate the creatures were adept climbers, and well-equipped for leaping between branches, but incapable of powered flight.

Image credit: Matt Martyniuk


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