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Dinosaur
News
New Chinese Dromaeosaur Covered with Downy Fibers
Sinornithosaurus millenii
September 24, 1999

Paleontologists have discovered a new meat-eating dinosaur fossil (a dromaeosaur) in northeast China that may have been covered with a coat of down-like fibers, early proto-feathers. This dinosaur dates from about 124 million years ago, during the middle Jurassic period.


Velociraptor is another dromaeosaurid dinosaur. Velociraptor was about 6 feet (2 m) long and was found in Mongolia.
Although other dinosaurs have already been found with feather-like coats, the previous finds belonged to a more advanced group of dinosaurs. This new dinosaur is a dromaeosaur, an earlier type of meat-eating dinosaur. Other dromaeosaurs include Velociraptor, Utahraptor, and Deinonychus. This new fossil suggests that these dinosaurs may not have had scaly, reptile-like skin, but perhaps had a softer, downy coat. No fossil skin impressions of these dinosaurs had been found previously.

This new find was described by paleontologist Xiao-Chun Wu of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology of Beijing and the University of Calgary of Alberta, Canada. Wu and his colleagues named this new find Sinornithosaurus millenii, meaning "Chinese bird lizard of the millennium." Wu et al. describe this fossil in the September 16 issue of the magazine Nature.

Sinornithosaurus was found in the Yixian rock formation in northeast China near Sihetun. This area has yielded an enormous number of fossils in the last few years - it is one of the richest fossil beds yet discovered. A few years ago, dinosaurs like Sinosauropteryx prima, Caudipteryx zoui, and Beipiaosaurus (Xing Xu, et al., 1999) were found there. These advanced dinosaurs were also covered with fibers.

Wu contends, "This is further support for the idea that birds gradually evolved from the theropod dinosaurs." Birds may have branched off from the dromaeosaurid dinosaurs during the mid-Jurassic period, roughly 150 million years ago. Although there are scientific dissenters, the majority of paleontologists agree with Wu about the origin of birds.

RELATED LINKS:
A page on Dromaeosaurids, the dinosaurs that led to the birds.

Information on Velociraptor.

Information about Sinosauropteryx prima.

Information about Caudipteryx zoui.

A page on Protarchaeopteryx robusta.

Information on Unenlagia comahuensis.

Other fossils found in China.

A site about Birds.

A Chart of geological time.




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