Jun. 1st, 2014

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No fancy title or background on this one today, I'm afraid - I'd like to do more with these guys at some point, though, because what an unusual dinosaur. This is Caudipteryx zhoui, an early Cretaceous oviraptorid. The outward similarity these dinosaurs shared with later chickens and pheasants is a little bit baffling. They had a very chicken-like body shape, with a birdlike short fanned tail. Strangely, no fossils found so far preserve any secondary feathers (the long feathers attached to the arm, as opposed to the hand feathers, which are the primaries) - either they didn't have them, or somehow they simply weren't fossilized, it's difficult to say. They did have teeth inside that beaked mouth, but they may have been vestigial, for as herbivores, they really only needed that beak and the stones they swallowed into their crop to tear up and break down plant matter. Despite this dinosaur looking an awful lot like a bird, they weren't as closely related to them as some of the other small theropods, like the dromaeosaurs - but maybe that doesn't matter so much, given how blurry that dinosaur-bird line is, already.

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Lauren Helton

September 2014

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