In a recent article published in the prestigious journal Nature, a team of researchers from China described a previously unknown avialae that is considered a significant piece of the puzzle in the evolution of birds. Avialae refer to a group of feathered theropod dinosaurs that are bipedal carnivores with distinctive claws and teeth.
Early diversification of the Avialae
The research team estimates that the dinosaur, which has bird-like features, reached about the size of a crested pheasant, also known as a coclase pheasant. This corresponds to a body length of about 58 to 64 centimetres, with the tail measuring between 22 and 28 centimetres. Based on these characteristics, the weight of the Avialae is estimated by scientists to be about 641 grams.
Particularly remarkable are the strikingly long lower legs and other anatomical features of the Fujianvenator. These features, combined with the geological and palaeontological findings from the site, indicate that this dinosaur lived in a swamp-like environment. This ecological niche, the research team points out, was previously unknown for early avialae. The Fujianvenator is therefore probably considered a high-speed runner or long-legged mudflat bird, which contrasts with other early bird species that were more arboreal and flying.
The discovery of the Fujianvenator prodigiosus provides researchers with valuable spatial and temporal information about the early diversification of the Avialae, which took place shortly before the end of the Jurassic period. Interestingly, it has similar proportions to the “first bird”, Archaeopteryx. The scientists are confident that further discoveries can be made in the region of the site to fill important temporal and geological gaps in our understanding of the Late Jurassic period.