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Re: New York Times article on _Confuciusornis_



In a message from Dinogeorge dated 95-10-19 22:40:27 EDT, the New York Times
writes:

>The Confucius bird provides compelling evidence that nature's initial
>experimentation with birds must have spread quickly into a global phenomenon
>played out in different habitats and marked by seemingly rapid evolutionary
>transitions, even some false starts.

Read all about it in _Mesozoic Meanderings_ #2, first & second printings,
1991 and 1992.

>Indeed, the researchers suggest that the Confucius bird occupied a separate
>limb of the avian family tree that branched off soon after the emergence of
>Archaeopteryx, leading to Gobipteryx and eventual extinction. 
>
>These birds somehow lost their teeth and developed horny bills, an
adaptation
>that the main line of avian evolution did not exhibit until the end of the
>Cretaceous period, about 65 million years ago. 
>
>For almost a century Archaeopteryx has been alone on its perch as the early
>bird of the Jurassic geological period. But the new findings suggest that
>birds in several forms and stages of evolution probably existed at the time,
>or shortly thereafter. 

Read all about it in _Mesozoic Meanderings_ #2, first & second printings,
1991 and 1992.

>Since the Confucius bird was found on the other side of the world from
>Archaeopteryx, paleontologists said, the discovery shows that birds in
>different forms were a widely dispersed phenomenon. They had even adapted to
>different habitats: the Chinese fossils were found in a freshwater
>environment; Archaeopteryx came from marine lagoons. 
>
>``We now have birds that were different from Archaeopteryx, very
different,''
>said Dr. Larry D. Martin, a paleontologist at the University of Kansas at
>Lawrence and one of the authors of the Nature report. ``We also know there
>was some diversity in birds at that time, both in geography and in design.''


Read all about it in _Mesozoic Meanderings_ #2, first & second printings,
1991 and 1992.

>An analysis of the fossils showed that the wing skeleton, including the long
>fingers and big claws, and two legs retained the primitive, almost reptilian
>features found in Archaeopteryx. But the skull, with its beak, represented a
>dramatic innovation. The horny bill is assumed to have evolved from
reptilian
>scales. 
>
>Scientists also note that the Confucius bird showed another sign of
>modernity: the first direct evidence of body feathers. The only preserved
>feathers on Archaeopteryx are on its wings. 
>
>Another author, Dr. Alan Feduccia, a specialist in bird evolution at the
>University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said the Confucius bird's
>``transition to a modern avian beak so swiftly is really astounding.'' 

Read all about it in _Mesozoic Meanderings_ #2, first & second printings,
1991 and 1992.

>In their report, Martin, Feduccia and their Chinese colleagues, Lian-hai Hou
>of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology in Beijing and Zhonghe Zhou, a
>graduate student at Kansas, say the findings hint at discoveries yet to be
>made at this critical stage in bird evolution. They write: ``These specimens
>provide evidence for either an undiscovered pre-Archaeopteryx or a rapid
>post-Archaeopteryx evolution in birds.'' 



>Other paleontologists familiar with the fossils quibble with the suggestion
>that the Confucius bird lived as early as the Jurassic period, and the
>authors of the Nature report acknowledge that the geology of the region made
>it difficult to pin down the timing. 
>
>But the scientists echo the reaction of Dr. Mark Norell, a paleontologist at
>the American Museum of Natural History in New York City: ``It's a very, very
>important specimen.'' Dr. Luis Chiappe, a research associate at the museum
>who has examined the fossils, said they would yield valuable information
>about the early evolution of birds and made him all the more curious to
>discover the common ancestor of Archaeopteryx and Confuciusornis. 

Read all about it in _Mesozoic Meanderings_ #2, first & second printings,
1991 and 1992.

The Birds Came First. Heh heh!