Senior Lecturer in Vertebrate Palaeontology Dr Gareth Dyke has co-authored a paper describing a new bird-like dinosaur that is set to challenge current theories on the origin of flight.
The new dinosaur, named Eosinopteryx, was thought to have been about 30cm long and pre-dates other bird-like dinosaurs that science believed modern birds had evolved from.
For many years it was thought that birds evolved from theropods, a group of dinosaurs in the Early Cretaceous period, but evidence of feathered dinosaurs from the earlier Middle-Late Jurassic period and Dr Dyke’s latest find suggest otherwise.
The remains of the dinosaur were discovered in north-eastern China. The fossils indicate that despite being feathered, Eosinopteryx was unable to fly due to a small wingspan and bone structure that did not allow it to flap its wings. Its toes were suited to walking on the ground, and the fact that there were fewer feathers on its tail and lower legs made it easier for it to run too.
Dr Dyke stated that:
“This discovery sheds further doubt on the theory that the famous fossil Archaeopteryx – or “first bird” as it is sometimes referred to – was pivotal in the evolution of modern birds… Our findings suggest that the origin of flight was much more complex than previously thought.”