Feathered Dinosaur Update

Update from Science News, Vol. 150, October 26, 1996

“The Chinese fossil seems closely related to the coelurosaur Compsagnathus, one of the smallest dinosaurs. The Liaoning animal cannot be considered a direct bird ancestor because it came well after the time of Archaeopteryx, which lived 150 million years ago. If the bird-dinosaur theory is correct, true birds must have split off the theropod line before Archaeopteryx.

“For now, critics of the theory remain undaunted by the new find, Larry D. Martin of the University of Kansas in Lawrence says that the structures on the back of the Chinese dinosaur may be the frayed remnants of dermal scales, similar to the frill running down the back of an iguana. In that case, the find would say little about the origin of birds.

“Like most paleontologists, however, Martin awaits a detailed report on the new find. ‘The possibility for having egg on the face is tremendous at this point’, he says. ‘We generally get more hard evidence with alien abductions than we have here.’”

R. Monastersky

Published: 28 February 2006