This ‘hot mess’ bird links dinosaur and avian evolution

Jinguofortis perplexus IVPP V novataxa Wang Stidham et Zhou paleoArt Chung Tat Cheung
Jingofortis perplexus. Image credit: Chung-Tat Cheung

Yes, birds are technically modern dinosaurs. But sometimes it’s tough to tell where the non-avian dino ends and the bird begins. As John Pickrell at National Geographic reports, scientists have now discovered a 127-million-year-old fossil that blends its avian features with some pretty prehistoric quirks, shedding new light on the evolution of flying birds.

[T]he newly-named Jinguofortis perplexus was kind of a hot mess. In fact, it derives the latter half of its name from its perplexing occupancy of a sort of dino-bird uncanny valley, according to new the paper published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. As it turns out, J. perplexus may have been bafflingly ill-adapted at flying—due mostly to growing pains as it transitioned away from its dinosaur relatives.

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For one, J. perplexus sported some features we don’t typically see on today’s chickens and crows, like a toothy jaw in place of a beak.

The bird’s wonky wings illustrate that the the evolution of avian flight “was not one direct path,” [says paleontologist Dennis Voeten] “Dinosaurs may have ‘experimented’ with different flight styles”

Study author [Min] Wang agrees—and isn’t one to mince words. As he explains it to Pickrell at National Geographic, “This new bird fossil shows that [this evolutionary path] was much more messy [than we once thought].”

Read full, original post: This 127-Million-Year-Old Fossil Links Dinosaur and Bird Evolution

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