Saturday, December 03, 2005

Shaking Up the Evolutionary Tree

As you may have gathered from the very first post on this blog, the folks at Kiko’s House are crazy about birds. Even really, really old birds.

So we’d be remiss to not post the fascinating news, as reported in New Scientist, that the newly found and exceptionally well preserved archaeopteryx fossil shown here reveals that the oldest known bird was much closer to a dinosaur than previously thought.

Some nine archaeopteryx specimens have been found, but this one includes a foot and skull more closely resembling those of two-legged predatory dinosaurs called dromeosaurs than modern birds. It was the flight feathers on archaeopteryx's long front limbs that originally led paleontologists to identify the critter as the oldest know bird species.

How old? About 150 million years ago, or the Late Jurassic (as in "Jurassic Park") period.

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