A new flying dinosaur that lived about 150 million years ago has been dug up in China, which scientists say throws new light on the evolution of birds. The Aurornis xui was about the same size as a chicken, had tiny triangular teeth and was covered almost head-to-toe in primitive feathers.
Scientists from the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences in Brussels say the complete fossilised skeleton throws new light on the evolution of birds.
The chicken-sized Aurornis xui found in China is related to the earliest known flying bird, the Archaeopteryx. Both were avialans – dinosaur-birds that diverged millions of years ago from the theropods of land dinosaurs such as the Tyrannosaurus Rex and the velicoraptor.
The fossilised skeleton of the Aurornis xui bird was found in a quarry in the Liaoning Province in China, near the North Korean border. Liaoning has proven a rich source of ‘dino-birds’ over the years with the discovery and naming of dozens of types of species in the region.
The Aurornis xui, left, was a similar size and shape to the modern-day chicken, right. It evolved from land dinosaur theropods including the velociraptor. It was 20 inches long and had tiny triangular teeth.
BUT WHAT WAS THE ARCHAEOPTERYX?
Archaeopteryx are the earliest known flying birds, thought to have been about the size of a modern-day magpie.
They lived around 150 million years ago and developed flying abilities that are believed to have evolved from gliding out of trees.
The first complete skeleton of an Archaeopteryx was discovered in Jurassic limestone in Germany in 1861.
Scientists said the fossils represented the transition between reptiles and birds.
The Archaeopteryx forms the missing link, sharing sharp teeth and a long bony tail with small theropod dinosaurs, and a wishbone and feathers with the birds.