Saturday, January 30, 2010

Another Loose End Tied Up In Bird-Dino Debate

Let's say you're Haplocheirus sollers. You've got two gangly legs, stubby arms and feathery adornments that look similar to something even a third-class figure skater wouldn't wear. On top of that, you have the ragged claws of a horror film monster, and a tail that seems like something from an overgrown rat.

As Dinosaurs go off, you're an odd bird -- even though you're not a bird at all.
According to a paper in the most up-to-date issue of the journal Science, the newly discovered Haplocheirus is the oldest known member of a group of dinosaurs called alvarezsaurs.

For years, researchers have debated whether alvarezsaurs come down from dinosaurs or birds. The majority accepted that they were dinosaurs, but gaps in the Fossil record -- especially a lack of any alvarezsaur fossils predating birds -- left the issue open to debate.

The discovery of Haplocheirus by a team of paleontologists from George Washington University widen the fossil record of alvarezsaurs back in time by 63 million years -- a good 15 million years before the first birds appeared.

With this innovative evidence that alvarezsaurs existed before birds, there's little room to argue that they could be anything other than dinosaurs. Strange-looking dinosaurs, but dinosaurs, nonetheless.

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