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Re: Sinornithosaurus millenii in NATURE
>The following article will appear in tomorrow's issue of Nature:
>Nature 401, 262 - 266 (1999) © Macmillan Publishers Ltd.
>A dromaeosaurid dinosaur with a filamentous integument from the Yixian
>Formation of China
>XING XU, XIAO-LIN WANG & XIAO-CHUN WU
Here's a draft of my short article on Sinornithosaurus written for this
Week's New Scientist.
Chinese paleontologists have found a dinosaur with a long downy coat that
could flap its unusually long front limbs like a bird. The discovery
bolsters the case that the first birds took off from the ground, evolving
from fast-running two-legged predatory dinosaurs called theropods.
The key evidence comes from the unusually sturdy shoulder girdle of the new
discovery, named Sinornithosaurus, says Xiao-Chun Wu, of the Institute of
Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing. The orientation
of the joint "allows the arm to go up and down for flapping ability. From
this point we can easily go to a flying animal," says Wu. Other dinosaurs
had shoulders designed to move the arms back and forth, including two
Chinese fossils discovered in the same area that have feathers clearly
preserved, Protarchaeopteryx and Caudipteryx.
Sinornithosaurus is the oldest known dromeosaur, a family that included
Velociraptor and Utahraptor, Wu reports in Nature (Vol. 401, p. 262). The
shoulder joints of those animals are not well preserved.
Some other notes for dinophiles:
The "downy coat" is made up of filaments up to 40 mm long, which look kind
of furry in the picture (not like well-structured wing feathers). They
haven't analyzed the chemical composition yet, so they aren't certain if
it's the same as feathers. The pictures in Nature don't _look_ like
feathers, but as others have noted, the bones are jumbled, not articulated
as elegantly as Sinosauropteryx or Confuciusornis.
The skull is 13 centimeters long. Wu said the animal was about twice the
size of Protarchaeopteryx.
This is a very interesting critter, indicating a rather diverse 'feathered'
fauna at the time.
Jeff Hecht Boston Correspondent New Scientist magazine
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