A new species of dinosaur had recently been discovered by a team of paleontologists in Liaoning, China, and this one looked an awful lot like a chicken. The team found a remarkably well-preserved, 125-million-year-old fossilized skeleton of the three-foot long animal. It’s called the Jianianhualong tengi, and it lived during the Cretaceous period.
The feathered dinosaur now represents the earliest known common ancestor of birds, as well as of the closely related bird-like dinosaurs. Nature Communications documents the new discovery, which offers new insights into the evolution of feathers and flight.
A newly discovered species of dinosaur looked a lot like a chicken.
The Jianianhualong tengi is now the earliest known troodontid, a group of bird-like dinosaurs, to feature asymmetric feathers. Its feathers had stiff quills and barbs that were longer on one side than the other. These asymmetric feathers are a key innovation associated with the evolution of flight. The troodontids, along with velociraptors, are the closest known relatives to birds.
According to the authors of the study, as documented in Nature Communications:
“Asymmetrical feathers have been associated with flight capability but are also found in species that do not fly, and their appearance was a major event in feather evolution.”
It is now known as the closest relative of modern-day birds.
It is still unclear whether or not the Jianianhualong tengi was capable of flight. Michael Pittman, a paleontologist at the University of Hong Kong and an author of the study, told National Geographic:
“It is extremely challenging to accurately reconstruct aerodynamic capabilities in early fossil birds and bird-like dinosaurs because there is a lot of missing data to deal with.”
It’s unclear yet whether the feathered dinosaur had flight capabilities.
According to the findings, the animal was smaller than today’s average man. It was about three feet long and weighed about as much as a Chihuahua.
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