So This Is What The World’s Earliest Bird Looked Like
Up until a recent discovery of a skeleton preserved in clay sediment in the Tiaojishan Formation of Liaoning Province in China scientists believed that the oldest known bird-like creature was the Archaeopteryx.
Called Aurora for short, it’s full nameĀ Aurornis xui means ‘daybreak, or ‘dawn’, this feathered dinosaur lived some 160 million years ago which places it during the Middle Jurassic period.
The Aurora was no small fry either as it measures in at 1.7 feet in height and about 20 inches long. It came equipped with clawed hands and teeth which it used to eat insects and other small creatures of the period.
As far as “wings” it had four of them, if you count the feathers that adorned its legs. It not believed that the Aurora actually flew but rather was a glider.
From Nature News, which has a full article on the discovery:
[Pascal] Godefroit and his colleagues contend that Aurornis is the oldest known member of the Avialae, the group that includes every animal that is more closely related to modern birds than to non-avian dinosaurs such as Velociraptor. With Aurornis rooted at the base of the avian tree, the researchers place Archaeopteryx further up the trunk, firmly within the Avialae lineage, and not with the non-avian dinosaurs as other researchers recently suggested.
Godefroit notes that putting Archaeopteryx back within the bird lineage means that powered flight need have evolved only once among birds and dinosaurs. If Archaeopteryx, with its relatively well-developed wings, was more closely related to Velociraptor than to birds, powered flight would have had to evolve twice.