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An exceptionally preserved Lower Cretaceous ecosystem

Nature volume 421, pages 807814 (20 February 2003) | Download Citation

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Abstract

Fieldwork in the Early Cretaceous Jehol Group, northeastern China has revealed a plethora of extraordinarily well-preserved fossils that are shaping some of the most contentious debates in palaeontology and evolutionary biology. These discoveries include feathered theropod dinosaurs and early birds, which provide additional, indisputable support for the dinosaurian ancestry of birds, and much new evidence on the evolution of feathers and flight. Specimens of putative basal angiosperms and primitive mammals are clarifying details of the early radiations of these major clades. Detailed soft-tissue preservation of the organisms from the Jehol Biota is providing palaeobiological insights that would not normally be accessible from the fossil record.

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Acknowledgements

We thank the IVPP Liaoxi Project field team (M.-M. Zhang, X.-L. Wang, X. Xu, F. Zhang, Y. Wang, F. Jin, J.-Y. Zhang, Y.-Q. Wang, Y.-M. Hu), and C. C. Swisher, Q. Leng, H. Zhang, J. Zhang, C.-S. Li, S. Duan, W.-Q. Zhu, E.-M. Friis, J. Wocicki, P. G. Davis, P. Upchurch, D. M. Unwin, M. A. Taylor, R. Paton and I. Glasspool for discussions. K. Padian and Z.-X. Luo provided useful comments. This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (to Z.Z.), the Chinese Academy of Sciences (to Z.Z.), the Special Funds for Major State Basic Research Projects of China (to Z.Z.), The Royal Society of London (to P.M.B.), Jurassic Foundation (to P.M.B.), and NERC (Research Fellowship to J.H.).

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Author notes

    • Paul M. Barrett

    Present address: Department of Palaeontology, The Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London, SW7 5BD, UK.

Affiliations

  1. *Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, PO Box 643, Beijing 100044, China

    • Zhonghe Zhou
  2. †Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3PS, UK

    • Paul M. Barrett
  3. §Department of Geology and Zoology, National Museums of Scotland, Chambers Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1JF, UK

    • Jason Hilton

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