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Birds?



DINOSAUR FUND MAY SHED LIGHT ON BIRDS
from The Chicago Tribune

A feathered dinosaur not much bigger than a chicken, recently discovered
in
northeast China, is expected to give science a clearer picture of the
ancestors of today's birds, according to Field Museum paleontologist Peter
Mackovicky.

He and three co-authors describe the pint-size, two-legged meat-eater they
named Sinovenator changii in Thursday's issue of the British scientific
journal Nature.

Evolving between 130 million and 144 million years ago, Sinovenator, which
means "China hunter," is one of the earliest, most primitive members of a
group of dinosaurs known as troodontids, Mackovicky said.

Troodontids and birds branched off from the same common ancestor at
roughly
the same time. Various species of troodontids lived on until the
extinction
of dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Birds, of course, survived and live on
today.

"Sinovenator comes along close to the point where troodontids split off
from
that ancestor and birds split off to evolve in a different direction,"
Mackovicky said. "Sinovenator shares some very close resemblances to the
earliest bird we know, Archaeopteryx."

Crow-size Archaeopteryx fossils, complete with feather impressions, have
been found in limestone formations in Germany dating back 144 million
years.
<http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chi-0202140005feb14.story?coll=chi
%2Dnews%2Dhed>