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Nat. Geographic and Archaeoraptor

Nat'l Geographic Confirms Mistake

Associated Press Writer=
       WASHINGTON (AP) _ The National Geographic Society confirmed
Thursday that a fossil hailed last year as important evidence of a
relationship between birds and dinosaurs is really a composite of
at least two different animals.
       The specimen, Archaeoraptor, was unveiled by National Geographic
last October and paleontologists said they believed it was a key
species in the transition from dinosaurs to birds.
       That was later questioned by Chinese paleontologist Xu Xing and
National Geographic convened a panel of scientists to study the
       The team headed by Hans-Dieter Sues of the Royal Ontario Museum
reported Thursday that the specimen is made up of parts from at
least two different animals.
       Scientists have other evidence that birds descended from small,
meat-eating dinosaurs and the new report doesn't change that.
       As for Archaeoraptor, however, the panel concluded that the
skull, trunk, shoulder and forelimbs of the specimen represent a
species new to science, the panel said. They said this new find may
have implications for the early evolution of birds, but so far its
relationship to other primitive birds has not been determined.
       The tail, on the other hand, belongs to a small predatory
dinosaur known as a dromaeosaur, they concluded. The left and right
upper leg bone _ femur_ go together, as do the other leg bones, but
these bones may represent a combination of several animals, the
panel said.
       The Chinese scientist had raised questions about the find after
finding the supposed tail of Archaeoraptor matched the tail of a
small dinosaur from the same type of rock where Archaeoraptor had
been found. Xu Xing attended the session where the panel studied
the fossil.
       Besides Sues, other panel members were James Clark of George
Washington University, Catherine Foster of the State University of
New York at Stony Brook, Mark Norell of the American Museum of
National History in New York and Storrs Olson of the National
Museum of Natural History in Washington. The results were announced
by Stephen Czerkas of the Dinosaur Museum in Blanding, Utah, who
had originally obtained the fossil at a gem and mineral show in
       It was originally found in China and Xu noted that when pieces
are stolen and smuggled out, sometimes blocks of fossils are
matched together mistakenly.
       When it was unveiled at a news conference last October,
Archaeoraptor liaoningensis, which lived 120 million to 140 million
years ago, stirred interest because the fossil bones made it appear
that it would have been able to fly.
       On the net: http://www.nationalgeographic.com

Peace and grace,

Bill Olewiler+, OSL
United Methodist pastor, Virginia
. . . All manner of things will be well
    -- Julian of Norwich
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