Saturday, June 16, 2007

I've just noticed that Tony occasionally offers coverage of the latest and most significant Palaeontological discoveries, which means that I have been letting him down by failing to offer coverage of the latest dinosaur discovery.

While Xinhuanet offers some details about the prehistoric avian, the National Geographic website has a decorative artist's interpretation of how it might have appeared. Here's an extract from the Xinhuanet summary:

Chinese archaeologists have discovered a the remains of gigantic bird-like dinosaur in the Gobi Desert in north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, which could overturn theories that dinosaurs became generally smaller as they evolved into birds.

The animal, named gigantoraptor erlianensis, is believed to have been about eight meters in length, weighed 1,400 kg, and stood up to five meters high. Chinese archaeologists said that despite its enormous size, gigantoraptor erlianensis belonged to the oviraptorosauria, a group of smaller, feathered animals. In light of its size, the researchers performed two different tests to confirm that it belonged to the oviraptorosaur family. "The analyses strongly supported the oviraptorosaur affinity of gigantoraptor erlianensis and suggested this new dinosaur was in an intermediate position in oviraptorosaurian evolution," Xu Xing, a researcher with the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleon anthropology with the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Chinese archaeologists believe gigantoraptor erlianensis was an anomaly in the evolution of dinosaurs to birds and its discovery complicates the evolutionary pattern. Xu said they had no direct evidence that gigantoraptor erlianensis was feathered like its close relatives, but based on its close relationship to other feathered species such as caudipteryx and protarchaeopteryx, gigantoraptor erlianensis probably had feathers on its arms and tail at least.