An artistic reconstruction of what the miraculous Fujianvinator, a newly discovered dinosaur, might have looked like.
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A fossil of a small, bird-like dinosaur with surprisingly long lower legs has been discovered in China.
This creature likely lived during the Late Jurassic Period, 148 million to 150 million years ago, in what is now Fujian Province in southeastern China.
His name is Fuijianvenator prodigiosus, which means “strange hunter.” From “fuegian” in Latin, the creature had elongated legs that were twice as long as its thighs. In most dinosaurs, the opposite is true.
The fossil, which weighs about 1.4 pounds (641 grams) and is the size of a pheasant, is important because it fills a gap in the fossil record close to the origin of birds, said Min Wang, lead author of the study published Wednesday in the journal. nature.
Birds diverged from the two-legged dinosaurs (the group to which T. rex belongs) during the Jurassic Period, but knowledge of their early evolutionary history is hampered by the relative lack of fossils from this time.
“Fujianvenator, due to its unique skeletal shape, sheds new light on the morphological evolution…of the early evolutionary stage of birds,” said Wang, a professor at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing.
A team of researchers from the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology and the Fujian Institute of Geological Survey at the site where the miraculous Fujianvenator was discovered.
In modern animals, an elongated lower leg is associated with species that can run quickly, suggesting that Fujianvenator may have been a high-speed runner, according to the study.
However, in birds, it is a trait also found in wading birds such as storks and cranes, making it possible for Fujianvenator to live in a swampy, aquatic environment.
The fossil was found with fossils of other aquatic and semi-aquatic animals, including turtles and finned fish, suggesting that it may have been hanging out in swamps.
The study said that other known bird-like dinosaurs lived in trees and were more aerial in nature.
Wang said that although there are no feathers preserved in the fossil, it is very likely that Fujianvenator had these feathers because its closest relatives in the dinosaur family tree had them. He added that it is not possible to determine from the fossil whether the bird-like dinosaur could fly or not.
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