Recent coelurosaurian discoveries have greatly enriched our knowledge of the transition from dinosaurs to birds, but all reported taxa close to this transition are from relatively well known coelurosaurian groups1,2,3. Here we report a new basal avialan, Epidexipteryx hui gen. et sp. nov., from the Middle to Late Jurassic of Inner Mongolia, China. This new species is characterized by an unexpected combination of characters seen in several different theropod groups, particularly the Oviraptorosauria. Phylogenetic analysis shows it to be the sister taxon to Epidendrosaurus4,5, forming a new clade at the base of Avialae6. Epidexipteryx also possesses two pairs of elongate ribbon-like tail feathers, and its limbs lack contour feathers for flight. This finding shows that a member of the avialan lineage experimented with integumentary ornamentation as early as the Middle to Late Jurassic, and provides further evidence relating to this aspect of the transition from non-avian theropods to birds.
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We thank F. Jin for discussion, Y. Li for specimen preparation, W. Gao for photography, and J. Choiniere for the use of his laptop computer. This research was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Major Basic Research Projects of the Ministry of Science and Technology, China.
This file contains Supplementary Measurements, Character List, Data Matrix, Strict Consensus Tree, Estimated Body Mass, Supplementary Figures S1 and S2 and Diagnosis of Scansoriopterygidae (PDF 805 kb)
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Zhang, F., Zhou, Z., Xu, X. et al. A bizarre Jurassic maniraptoran from China with elongate ribbon-like feathers. Nature 455, 1105–1108 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature07447
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