Birds slipped from theropod dinosaurs by the Late Jurassic, however how we might interpret the earliest development of the Avialae, the clade containing all cutting edge birds yet not Deinonychus or Troodon, has been hampered by a restricted variety of fossils from the Jurassic. ( A clade is a group of organisms that share a common ancestor and all of the lineal descendants of that ancestor. (A clade is like a branch on the “tree of life.”)
Except for the Middle–Late Jurassic Yanliao Biota in northeast China (166–159 million years ago), no definitive avialans have been discovered to date. Ma) and the German Solnhofen Limestones, which are slightly younger but still contain Archaeopteryx. As a result, the earliest evidence of birds from the Cretaceous is about 30 million years old. However, understanding the evolutionary history of the distinctive avialan body plan begins with the Jurassic avian. In addition, they are essential to resolving the phylogenetic debate regarding the origin of birds.
A joint exploration group from the Establishment of Vertebrate Fossil science and Paleoanthropology (IVPP) of the Chinese Foundation of Sciences in Beijing and the Fujian Organization of Topographical Review (FIGS) depicted and dissected another 150-million-year-old avialan theropod from Zhenghe District, Fujian Region.
The bizarre assembly of morphologies shared by other avialans, troodontids, and dromaeosaurids in the new species, Fujianvenator prodigiosus, demonstrates the impact of evolutionary mosaicism on early bird evolution.
The lead and corresponding author of the study, Dr. Min Wang from IVPP, stated, “Our comparative analyses show that marked changes in body plan occurred along the early avialan line, which is largely driven by the forelimb, eventually giving rise to the typical bird limb proportion.” Fujianvenator’s Unique Morphology However, Fujianvenator is an odd species that developed bizarre hindlimb architecture after departing from this main trajectory.
The shockingly lengthened lower leg and different morphologies, in blend with other land perceptions, recommend that Fujianvenator lived in a bog like climate and was a rapid sprinter or a long-legged wader, addressing a formerly obscure biology for early avialans.
Geological Context and Implications Liming Xu, the study’s lead author, stated, “Besides Fujianvenator, we have found abundant other vertebrates, including teleosts, testudines, and choristoderes.”
Southeastern China experienced extensive tectonic activity during the Late Jurassic–Early Cretaceous due to subduction of the paleo-Pacific plate. This caused widespread magmatism and coeval fault-depression basins, which are where Fujianvenator was discovered. This land foundation is basically equivalent to in the Late Jurassic in north and northeastern China, where the more established Yanliao Biota is saved.
Dr. Zhonghe Zhou from IVPP, a co-author of the study, stated, “The extraordinary diversity, unique vertebrate composition, and paleoenvironment strongly indicate that this locality documents a terrestrial fauna, which we named the Zhenghe Fauna.” The Zhenghe Fauna is defined by in-situ radioisotopic dating and stratigraphic surveys as occurring between 150 and 148 Ma. As a result, Fujianvenator provides evidence for one of the Jurassic avian’s earliest strata and southernmost members.
The joint research team from IVPP and FIGS plans to continue their investigation of Zhenghe and the surrounding areas following the discovery of the Zhenghe Fauna. This provides a brand-new window into the planet’s terrestrial ecosystem during the Late Jurassic.
An example: A new avialan theropod from an emerging Jurassic terrestrial fauna,” published in Nature on September 6, 2023, by Liming Xu, Min Wang, Runsheng Chen, Liping Dong, Min Lin, Xing Xu, Jianrong Tang, Hailu You, Guowu Zhou, Linchang Wang, Wenxing He, Yujuan Li, Chi Zhang, and Zhonghe Zhou.