Scientists have discovered a new dinosaur species that had long legs and bird-like features in China. The fossil of the dinosaur, named Fujianvenator prodigiosus, was found in Fujian province in southeast China. The dinosaur lived during the Late Jurassic Period, about 148 to 150 million years ago, and was one of the earliest bird-like dinosaurs known from this time.
Fujianvenator: A Bizarre Hunter from Fujian
The name Fujianvenator prodigiosus means “bizarre hunter from Fujian” in Latin, and reflects the unique characteristics of the dinosaur. The dinosaur was about the size of a pheasant, and weighed around 1.4 pounds (641 grams). It had elongated lower legs that were twice as long as its thighs, which is unusual for most dinosaurs. In modern animals, long lower legs are associated with fast running or wading in water.
The researchers who discovered the fossil said that Fujianvenator might have been a high-speed runner, or lived in a swampy aquatic environment. The fossil was found with fossils of other aquatic and semi-aquatic animals, such as turtles and ray-finned fish, which suggest that it may have inhabited wetlands.
Fujianvenator: A Missing Link in Bird Evolution
Fujianvenator is also important for understanding the evolution of birds from dinosaurs. Birds diverged from two-legged theropod dinosaurs (the group that T. rex belonged to) during the Jurassic period, but the fossil record of this transition is scarce. Many paleontologists consider the first bird to be a 150-million-year-old feathered dinosaur called Archaeopteryx.
Fujianvenator is close to the origin of birds, and shows some bird-like features, such as a short tail and a fused collarbone. However, it also differs from other early bird-like dinosaurs in some ways, such as having long lower legs and lacking a wishbone. The researchers said that Fujianvenator sheds new light on the morphological diversity and evolution of early birds.
Fujianvenator: A Rare Discovery in China
The fossil of Fujianvenator was discovered in 2022 by a team of researchers from the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology and the Fujian Institute of Geological Survey. The fossil was unearthed from a site called Shangshaxi Formation, which dates back to the Late Jurassic Period.
The discovery of Fujianvenator is rare in China, as most of the known Jurassic dinosaur fossils are from northern China, such as Liaoning and Inner Mongolia. The researchers said that Fujianvenator represents a new dinosaur fauna from southern China, and reveals the biogeographic diversity of dinosaurs during the Jurassic period.