Ever imagined a world where dinosaurs roamed our streets? scientists have made a groundbreaking discovery in China’s Fujian Province—a bizarre bird-like dinosaur that has the potential to bridge an evolutionary gap that’s puzzled scientists for years! Let’s dive in to know more about this strange creature.
Say Hello to Fujianvenator prodigiosus!
About 150 million years ago, when the world looked really different, a strange-looking creature walked through swamps where parts of China are today. This creature, called the Fujianvenator prodigiosus, was about the size of a chicken.
The physiological attributes seem a little contradictory. Its legs were unusually long, with its lower legs being twice the length of its upper ones. This avian dino also possessed a long bony tail and forelimbs eerily similar to a bird’s wing. But there’s a twist—it also had three clawed fingers and claws, further intensifying the mystery surrounding its evolution and lifestyle.
“F. prodigiosus was really a weird animal within the group of birds,” says Dr. Mark Loewen, a renowned paleontologist from the University of Utah.
Given its wacky features, you might be wondering: What did this dino actually do all day? Did it fly? Or did it run super-fast?
Scientists aren’t 100% sure. But some scientists think it might’ve been a speedy runner, kind of like the roadrunners we see today. Others, however, think it might have loved to wade in the water, similar to cranes or herons. Why? Because nearby, they found fossils of creatures that lived in the water. So, this bird-dino might have enjoyed hanging out by the water, maybe munching on some fishy snacks.
“I would put my money on the runner,” says Dr. Min Wang from the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
#Fossil of a new bird-like #dinosaur living 148-150 mln yrs ago was found in Zhenghe Fauna, SE China's Fujian, bridging a gap in the fossil record of birds' origin. Named Fujianvenator prodigiosus, the dino as tiny as a pheasant is distinct from other avialans for long lower legs pic.twitter.com/Kl2qGWucaa— People's Daily, China (@PDChina) September 7, 2023
Could It Fly?
Just because it had wing-like arms doesn’t mean it could fly. Dr. Wang, suggests that even if it did have the ability to fly, it was probably “not good” at it.
Why Is This Discovery a Big Deal?
Now, you might wonder: Why are scientists so excited about this one dino? Well, finding Fujianvenator prodigiosus is a bit like finding a missing piece in a massive jigsaw puzzle. The creature shares remarkable similarities with Archaeopteryx, a crow-sized creature from the same era. This creature is believed to be the very first bird. But after that bird, there’s a big gap in our history books—like missing several pages in a thrilling story.
This group diverged from the mighty therapod dinosaurs like Velociraptor and Tyrannosaurus rex and had a trajectory that ultimately led to today’s birds. The discovery of this bird-like dino might help us fill in those blank pages and get a clearer picture of how cool creatures from the past slowly transformed into the birds we see today.
“Early bird evolution is complicated,” says Dr. Hailu You, Chinese Academy of Sciences.
These hollow skeletons of bird ancestors are a bit tricky to preserve. Therefore, it led to a 20-million-year gap in the fossil record post-Archaeopteryx. The discovery of F. prodigiosus, therefore, might just be the key to piecing together more of the bird evolutionary narrative.
Finding ancient bones isn’t just about dusty old things. It’s like time-traveling, diving into intriguing tales of the past, and understanding how life changed over time. This new bird-like dino isn’t just a discovery; it’s a brand-new chapter in the never-ending story of our planet. And as we keep looking, who knows what other amazing stories we might uncover?
“A new avialan theropod from an emerging Jurassic terrestrial fauna” by Liming Xu, Min Wang, Runsheng Chen, Liping Dong, Min Lin, Xing Xu, Jianrong Tang, Hailu You, Guowu Zhou, Linchang Wang, Wenxing He, Yujuan Li, Chi Zhang and Zhonghe Zhou, 6 September 2023, Nature.