Ancient “birdsaurus”. A creature that lived 120 million years ago explains the transformation of dinosaurs into birds (photo)
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< p>Fossils of a bizarre creature that lived hundreds of millions of years ago in what is now China have shed light on the evolution of modern birds.
We can confidently say that modern birds are descendants of dinosaurs that became extinct 66 million years ago. However, until now, scientists could not understand how this incredible transformation took place, writes Science Alert.
The new find seems to shed light on this amazing evolutionary event. Not so long ago, during excavations in northern China, scientists discovered a bizarre creature, which was given the name Cratonavis zhui.
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The study was led by paleontologist Zhou Zhonghe from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). Scientists have discovered the hollow fossilized skeleton of a bird that lived in what is now China about 120 years ago. The structure of the body of this ancient creature turned out to be surprising – with an archaic, dinosaur-like head and a body similar to a modern bird.
Researchers believe that the transformation from a dinosaur to a bird was one of the most dramatic were the changes in form, function, and environment that eventually led to the form we see today in modern birds. And now, researchers believe that ancient fossils will help shed light on this one of the most amazing transformations in the world.
Scientists were studying sedimentary rocks in northern China when they found skeletons of feathered dinosaurs (Cratonavis) and early birds, including Confuciusornis Santus. The researchers used high-resolution CT scans and then used digital versions of the mineralized bones to reconstruct the shape of the skull and skeleton.
The results show that Cratonavis had a head similar to that of dinosaurs such as Tyrannosaurus rex. According to paleontologist Zhiheng Li, further research has shown that most Cretaceous birds could not move their beak apart from their skull and lower jaw.
Researchers believe that Kratonavis is on the family tree somewhere between the long-tailed Archeopteryx and Ornithotoracs. Another amazing feature that scientists have discovered is that the ancient “birdsaurus” had a long shoulder blade and first metatarsal bone (foot bone) – these features are rare in other dinosaurs and are completely absent in modern birds.
< p>Scientists believe that the very long shoulder blade probably compensated Cratonavis for the lack of a sternum. The researchers suggest that this long-extinct species contributed to the biological experiment on flight behavior. All this indicates that the skeletons of early birds were very plastic.