On the News @ National Geographic
This May Be Our Best Idea of What a Dinosaur Really Looked Like
“Picture a red-headed woodpecker crossed with a tiny velociraptor, and you have a good mental image of Anchiornis, a foot-high dinosaur that hails from the Late Jurassic.
That’s the conclusion of scientists who examined nine specimens of this ancient animal, lighting up its previously invisible soft tissues with high-powered lasers so they could get an even better idea of the dinosaur’s true dimensions.
The study shows that Anchiornis was remarkably bird-like, with drumstick-shaped legs and long forearms connected by a layer of skin called the patagium. It also had a slender tail and scaly footpads reminiscent of those on a chicken.
The discovery, described today in Nature Communications, adds to mounting evidence that a variety of dinosaurs had very bird-like traits as far back as 160 million years ago.
“Anchiornis was originally described as a bird,” says study coauthor Michael Pittman, a paleontologist at the University of Hong Kong. “But since then, different authors have provided evidence to [either] support its identity as an early bird or as a bird-like troodontid dinosaur.”
According to Pittman, “the best way to refer to Anchiornis is as a basal paravian, an early member of the group of dinosaurs that includes birds and the bird-like dinosaurs that share their closest common ancestor with birds.”
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