Wednesday, January 23, 2013

[Paleontology • 2013] Eosinopteryx brevipenna • Reduced plumage and flight ability of a new Jurassic paravian theropod (Theropoda: Troodontidae) from China


Eosinopteryx brevipenna
Godefroit, Demuynck, Dyke, Hu, Escuillié & Claeys 2013

Feathered theropods were diverse in the Early Cretaceous Jehol Group of western Liaoning Province, China. Recently, anatomically distinct feathered taxa have been discovered in the older Middle-Late Jurassic Tiaojishan Formation in the same region. Phylogenetic hypotheses including these specimens have challenged the pivotal position of Archaeopteryx in bird phylogeny. Here we report a basal troodontid from the Tiaojishan Formation that resembles Anchiornis, also from Jianchang County (regarded as sister-taxa). The feathers of Eosinopteryx are less extensive on the limbs and tail than Anchiornis and other deinonychosaurians. With reduced plumage and short uncurved pedal claws, Eosinopteryx would have been able to run unimpeded (with large foot remiges cursorial locomotion was likely problematic for Anchiornis). Eosinopteryx increases the known diversity of small-bodied dinosaurs in the Jurassic, shows that taxa with similar body plans could occupy different niches in the same ecosystem and suggests a more complex picture for the origin of flight.

Paleontologists have discovered in Liaoning remains small dinosaur with unusually short feathers, lived in China 156 million years ago, which suggests the diversity of species of dinosaurs have feathers in the Jurassic period, according to a paper published in the journal Nature Communications.  

Eosinopteryx brevipenna by ~T-PEKC on @deviantART 

A nocturnal Eosinopteryx with an owl-like facial disk hunting for prey
by ~StygimolochSpinifer on @deviantART 

Eosinopteryx brevipenna Holotype

Godefroit, P.; Demuynck, H.; Dyke, G.; Hu, D.; Escuillié, F. O.; Claeys, P. 2013. Reduced plumage and flight ability of a new Jurassic paravian theropod from China. Nature Communications 4: 1394. doi:10.1038/ncomms2389