Two feathered dinosaurs from northeastern China

Abstract

Current controversy over the origin and early evolution of birds centres on whether or not they are derived from coelurosaurian theropod dinosaurs. Here we describe two theropods from the Upper Jurassic/Lower Cretaceous Chaomidianzi Formation of Liaoning province, China. Although both theropods have feathers, it is likely that neither was able to fly. Phylogenetic analysis indicates that they are both more primitive than the earliest known avialan (bird), Archaeopteryx. These new fossils represent stages in the evolution of birds from feathered, ground-living, bipedal dinosaurs.

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Figure 1: Protarchaeopteryx robusta.
Figure 2: Protarchaeopteryx robusta.
Figure 3: Protarchaeopteryx robusta, NGMC 2125.
Figure 4: Caudipteryx zoui, holotype, NGMC 97-4-A.
Figure 5: Caudipteryx zoui.
Figure 6: Caudipteryx zoui, skull of NGMC 97-9-A in right lateral view.
Figure 7: Caudipteryx zou.
Figure 8: Feathers of Caudipteryx zoui, NGMC 97-4-A.
Figure 9: Cladogram of proposed relationships of Protoarchaeopteryx and Caudipteryx.

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Acknowledgements

We thank A. Brush, B. Creisler, M. Ellison, W.-D. Heinrich, N. Jacobsen, E. and R. Koppelhus, P. Makovicky, A. Milner, G. Olshevsky, J. Ostrom and H.-P. Schultze for advice, access to collections and logistic support; and the National Geographic Society, National Science Foundation (USA), the American Museum of Natural History, National Natural Science Foundation of China and the Ministry of Geology for support. Photographs were taken by O. L. Mazzatenta and K. Aulenback; the latter was also responsible for preliminary preparation of the Caudipteryx specimens. Line drawings are by P.J.C.

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Correspondence to Philip J. Currie.

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Qiang, J., Currie, P., Norell, M. et al. Two feathered dinosaurs from northeastern China. Nature 393, 753–761 (1998) doi:10.1038/31635

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