STL Science Center

STL Science Center

27 April 2012

Chinese Reptilian Wings

Image by IVPP
The 90's were a decade of plenty in Chinese paleontology, in all paleontology to be sure, but especially in China. Many new discoveries kept surfacing and one of the most important was the discovery of Sinosauropteryx. Sinosauropteryx prima, which I have to admit is not the most imaginative specific name for a dinosaur ever, was a fantastic find for a number of reasons, one of which has influenced the art and theories of a generation of paleontologists already. Sinosauropteryx was discovered possessing the filaments for simple feathers. That was not where the wonder ended either. Probing the minutiae of these filament feathers yielded evidence of the coloring of Sinosauropteryx, another paleontological first. As always in science there is a debate surrounding the feather or collagen origin of the fibers and the coloring scheme of a banded light-red-light tail has been questioned as well, but every theory has supporters as well as skeptics.

Members of the compsognathids, these were some tiny little dinosaurs, in numbers dangerous to a human sized animal for sure but a nuisance (or a ridiculously awesome pet maybe?) when they were alone. For an animal the size of a Jack Russell Terrier they had astoundingly long tails, at least the length of their body nose to hips jutting out from behind those hips. A tail that doubles your body length is clearly, if not that of a spider monkey, for balance. Sinosauropteryx is a lot like a Compsognathus really in its forma and size. I have not looked yet, but I am sure there is a theory somewhere about Sinosauropteryx being a migrated and evolved version of a Compy. As a very important find in the history of life on Earth, we will have more than a ton to talk about the rest of this week. For now, however, bask in the feathered glory of Zhao and Xing's illustration. Are they going after prey? Is it a courtship dance? A fight over territory? You decide!

No comments:

Post a Comment