May. 12th, 2014

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Anchiornis huxleyi is a famous little dinosaur, and one of the best-known, with several hundred fossils in collections worldwide - all found since its discovery in 2009 in northeastern China. The third Anchiornis found was exceptionally well-preserved, showing that it had a fully-feathered body except for the very tip of its snout. It, like Microraptor, has four wings, one on each limb, but the "flight" feathers on Anchiornis are far more primitive in that they are shorter, rounded at the ends, and symmetrical, unlike modern birds' flight feathers which are asymmetrical and pointed. The pigment-containing melanosomes within those feathers were the first of any dinosaur melanosomes to be analyzed, and as a result, Anchiornis became the first dinosaur whose true colors were known. What we don't fully know yet is where they fit with the rest of the dinosaurs - they've been placed with the troodontids, but may be more closely related to Archaeopteryx.

As a result, they're one of the most popular dinosaurs in paleoart, and I couldn't resist, either. These were tiny little guys, only a few feet long, and this one has awoken at its roost in a ginkgo to preen in the early morning sunlight.

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Lauren Helton

September 2014

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