Oldest Fossil Bird Found in China?
From the PEOPLE’S DAILY ONLINE (English edition):
A Chinese researcher said his team has discovered the fossil of the world's earliest bird from the late Mesozoic stratum in Fengning Man Autonomous County of north China's Hebei Province. Ji Qiang, a research fellow with the Geology Institute under the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences, said that the fossilized Jinfengopteryx elegans is more primitive than Archaeopteryx (below), previously considered the world's earliest bird, which was discovered in southern Germany in 1861.
Ji and his colleagues have been studying the 54.8-centimeter-long fossil of Jinfengopteryx elegans since its was discovered in Fengning county, about 120 kilometers north of Beijing, in July last year. Ji said, they found feathers attached to the whole body of the bird, which has a triangular-shaped head and 36 smooth teeth inside the short beak. The fossil consists of 12 sections of cervical vertebrae, 11 sections of spine vertebrae and 23 sections of caudal vertebrae. The bird's tail is 27.3 centimeters long, or about 50 percent of its total length.
Ji said Wednesday that several factors have lead to their conclusion. The Jinfengopteryx elegans' hind legs are longer than its forelimbs while the German bird has hind legs and forelimbs of almost the same length. Also, their bird has more and taller teeth than Archaeopteryx. Based on their research of 205 characteristics of Jinfengopteryx elegans, Ji and his colleagues concluded that the Chinese bird and Archaeopteryx belong to phylogenetically close species.