Sunday, December 12, 2010

A dinosaur named Sinosauropteryx, meaning “Chinese lizard wing”

Modern birds are descendants of Maniraptoran dinosaurs, according to the current knowledge in paleontology. The evolutionary path from dinosaurs to birds, however, has many branches with dead-ends, representing species such as non-avian dinosaurs that went extinct long ago. One such dinosaur is Sinosauropteryx, a dinosaur with feathers and a bird-like skull found by a Chinese farmer in August 1996 in Sihetun village [1]. It was concluded by dating of radioactive elements in the fossil-encasing sediments, that this dinosaur lived around 125 million years ago.

Sinosauropteryx means “Chinese lizard wing.” The latter two word parts are immediately recognized by anybody with an interest in paleontology, as saur occurs in the word dinosaur and opteryx in archaeopteryx, the name of the “first bird,” flying around 150 million years ago.

Reference with tree of birds and non-avian dinosaurs:
[1] Richard Stone: Dinosaurs' Living Descendants. Smithsonian December 2010, 41 (8) , pp. 54-62.

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