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CNN: Chinese Scientists Challenge Bird Origin Theory


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Chinese Scientists Challenge Bird Origin Theory
Xinhua       20-JUN-99

 BEIJING (June 20) XINHUA - Chinese ornithologists have insisted that
the dinosaur was not the lineal father of birds as has been claimed by
other experts. 

 They made their statement in the authoritative scientific journal
Nature which is  published Thursday, challenging the widespread theory
of the dinosaur-bird links. 

 Hou Lianhai, a research fellow with the Institute of Vertebrate
Paleontology and Paleoanthropology under the Chinese Academy of Sciences
(CAS), said that a new species of Confuciusornis, a fossilized rare bird
found in Beipiao County, northeast Liaoning Province, has a well
preserved skeleton with feathers and a horny beak. 

 "The new specimen has a preserved and complete large postorbital (bone
situated behind the eye socket) that has a broad contact with the cheek
bone," Hou said in his article, co-authored by Zhou Zhonghe from the
same institute, Larry Martin from the Natural History Museum and the
Department of Systematics and Ecology at University of Kansas, and Alan
Feduccia with the Department of Biology at University of North Carolina. 

"These two bones form an arch dividing the upper and lower temporal
fenestrae, characteristic of archosaurian reptiles," Hou told Xinhua. 

Hou said that this may confirm previous suggestions of a postorbital in
Archaeopteryx, the earliest bird known in the world. 

Although being a primitive form of the modern bird, Archaeopteryx and
Confuciusornis, another earliest-known bird which dates back 140 million
years, were greatly different to the modern bird. 

Worldwide bird experts have used the only seven fossils of
Archaeopteryx  found in Germany for research and lab experiments. 

"Birds are sisters of dinosaurs rather than direct descendants of them,"
Hou said.

"In Jurassic period," Hou said, "the ancient bird evolved into various

 Therefore, scientists should look for bird's ancestors inside much
older layers. 

Hou got his fame for his research on the world's first Confuciusornis
fossil and published an influential article in Nature in 1996. 

"We have yet to unravel the mystery of bird's origin," Hou said, "but we
provide the new proof for the truth." 

 A British scientist A. D. Walker wrote a letter to Hou and supported
his viewpoint with the similarity analysis between Confuciusornis and
sphenosuchus, a primitive reptile which was found in South Africa. 
Flying Goat Graphics
(Society of Vertebrate Paleontology member)