ERTH 2401 Lecture Notes - Sinosauropteryx, Avialae, Ornithomimosauria

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Lecture 15: Feathered Dinosaurs
What does the fossil record tell us about the early evolution of feathers?
For many many years one of the more famous specimens for fossil feathers have
been the Archaeopteryx.
Found in Germany
Archaeopteryx
Fossil feathers known since 1861
BUT… It does not tell us if feathers evolved before flight, or for flight.
It does not tell us what the first feathers and feathered animals look like
Archaeopteryx feathers are essentially already as developed as modern birds
Less than 20 years ago, no feathered dinosaurs were known
Velociraptoras depicted in Jurassic Park (1993)
Feathered Dinosaur Localities
Most feathered dinosaurs are known from the Early Cretaceous Jehol Group of
Liaoning Province, northeastern China
More recently, the Middle-Late Jurassic rocks in this region have also produced
feathered dinosaurs
excellently preserved fossils due to continuous volcanic activity
Sinosauropteryx
Discovered in 1996 –first non-avialan dinosaur with feathers preserved
Yixian Formation, Early Cretaceous (124 million years old)
Small theropod with very long tail and short arms, related to Compsognathus
no wing feathers lived on the ground
Short, downy feathers are preserved along the neck, back and tail
Protarchaeopteryx
named in 1997 –first non-avialan dinosaur with rectrices (tail fan feathers);
symmatrical vaned feathered not capable of flight
Yixian Formation, Early Cretaceous (124 million years old)
Actually lived later than Archaeopteryx, probably related to oviraptorosaurs
Caudipteryx
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