This Prehistoric Bird Had Two Pairs of Wings

by Jacqueline Zuniga Paiz, age 13

The discovery in China of a new species of dinosaur has created more questions than answers.

A dinosaur found in Tiaojishan Formation of Liaoning Province, China and is said to have lived 150 million years ago. Its discovery, as reported in the journal Nature, has caused scientists to question their understanding of how birds evolved. This new dinosaur may be the most primitive known “bird” ever found. Twenty inches long and adorned with teeth that probably feed on insects, the critters called Aurornis xui.

It’s name comes from the Latin “Aurora;“ translated to English is “daybreak;” the Greek “Ornis,” meaning “bird;” and “Xui,” the Chinese honoring paleontologist Xu Xing. Many questions surround this “daybreak” bird, questions lead author and researcher Pascal Godefroit at Brussels Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences wants to get to the bottom of.

Aurornis xui isn’t the only primitive bird fossil, so is Archaeopteryx. Archaeopteryx is another 150 million year old fossil. Before Aurornis xui was discovered Archaeopteryx was previously considered the most primitive known bird. “The newly discovered dinosaur throws that into question, as the new find appears to represent an even more primitive older bird, ” said Godefroit.

Aurornis xui had wings as birds do – but in this case, two sets of them! They were located on the arms and legs. But studies from various groups state that the bird probably couldn’t fly because its body mass was too heavy to allow it to lift off. These characteristics demonstrated how the daybreak bird was more similar to an early member of the dinosaur group, the theropods. Theropods were small meat-eating dinosaurs that walked on two feet. Because of this, the daybreak bird’s position in its family tree was questioned. Whether the prehistoric bird’s position is set on land or sky will depend on how particular groups of researchers interpret the available data.

According to Alan Turner, an assistant professor of Anatomical Sciences at Stoney Brook University in New York, the species we understand as “birds” could one day be considered dinosaurs and vice versa.

[Sources: CNN]