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FOSSILS SUGGEST NEW ORIGIN OF BIRDS



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Forwarded message:
From:   NewsHound@sjmercury.com (NewsHound)
To:     clayolson@aol.com
Date: 96-11-15 09:05:59 EST

Selected by your NewsHound profile entitled "MISC PROFILE". The selectivity
score was 29 out of 100.

Fossils suggest new origin of birds
Mercury News Wire Services

[scientists challenge dino to bird view]

Ornithologist Alan Feduccia of the University of North Carolina and fellow
researchers say the new finds place the origin of birds as much as 76 million
years before the dinosaurs that most scientists regard as ancestors to modern
birds.

In addition, the findings suggest that archaeopteryx, a reptilian bird that
lived 145 million to 150 million years ago and that historically has been
called a link between dinosaurs and birds, is actually part of an
evolutionary cul-de-sac, and therefore could not have evolved into anything
still alive today.

[suggest that moderm birl lineage co-existed with _Archaeopteryx_]

The strongest clue, they said, comes from the fossils of a bird the size of a
sparrow, called Liaoningornis, which were uncovered by a farmer in China's
Liaoning province. In one test, volcanic rocks associated with the bones have
been dated at 137 million to 142 million years old, which in evolutionary
terms would make the bird a virtual contemporary of archaeopteryx.

In a study published in today's edition of the journal Science, Feduccia said
that ``all of the previous work on the early radiation of birds has been
largely superseded by many nearly complete specimens'' recently discovered in
China.

But the report, co-written by University of Kansas scientist Larry Martin and
two researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, may not convince many
paleontologists, who know Feduccia and Martin to be longtime holdouts to the
dinosaur-origin theory.

``The dinosaurian origin of birds has been pounded out for the last 20
years,'' said paleontologist Kevin Padian of the University of
California-Berkeley. ``It's extremely well-supported. It's not just that a
lot of paleontologists support it; in fact, nearly all except two of the
authors of this paper and maybe two or three other people in the field accept
this.''

Padian said the report relies on dubious dating techniques and fails to
account for any of the evidence linking birds and dinosaurs.

``It's nice to see reports of yet more early Cretaceous fossil birds from
China,'' said Padian. ``This is going to be a bonanza. Unfortunately, this
report puts everything in such a minority context that it ignores the
evidence that the rest of the scientific community accepts.''