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You are here: Home / Library / RBINS Staff Publications / A Jurassic avialan dinosaur from China resolves the early phylogenetic history of birds

Pascal Godefroit, Andrea Cau, Dongyu Hu, François Escuillié, Wenhao Wu and Gareth Dyke (2013)

A Jurassic avialan dinosaur from China resolves the early phylogenetic history of birds

Nature, 498(7454):359-362.

The recent discovery of small paravian theropod dinosaurs with well-preserved feathers in the Middle–Late Jurassic Tiaojishan Formation of Liaoning Province (northeastern China)1–4 has challenged the pivotal position of Archaeopteryx3,4, regarded from its discovery to be the most basal bird. Removing Archaeopteryx from the base of Avialae to nest within Deinonychosauria implies that typical bird flight, powered by the forelimbs only, either evolved at least twice, or was subsequently lost or modified in some deinonychosaurians3,5. Here we describe the complete skeleton of a new paravian from the Tiaojishan Formation of Liaoning Province, China. Including this new taxon in a comprehensive phylogenetic analysis for basal Paraves does the following: (1) it recovers it as the basal-most avialan; (2) it confirms the avialan status of Archaeopteryx; (3) it places Troodontidae as the sistergroup to Avialae; (4) it supports a single origin of powered flight within Paraves; and (5) it implies that the early diversification of Paraves and Avialae took place in the Middle–Late Jurassic period.
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Paleontology
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Earth and History of Life
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