Chinese Science Bulletin

, Volume 54, Issue 3, pp 430–435 | Cite as

A new feathered maniraptoran dinosaur fossil that fills a morphological gap in avian origin

  • Xing XuEmail author
  • Qi Zhao
  • Mark Norell
  • Corwin Sullivan
  • David Hone
  • Gregory Erickson
  • XiaoLin Wang
  • FengLu Han
  • Yu Guo


Recent fossil discoveries have substantially reduced the morphological gap between non-avian and avian dinosaurs, yet avians including Archaeopteryx differ from non-avian theropods in their limb proportions. In particular, avians have proportionally longer and more robust forelimbs that are capable of supporting a large aerodynamic surface. Here we report on a new maniraptoran dinosaur, Anchiornis huxleyi gen. et sp. nov., based on a specimen collected from lacustrine deposits of uncertain age in western Liaoning, China. With an estimated mass of 110 grams, Anchiornis is the smallest known non-avian theropod dinosaur. It exhibits some wrist features indicative of high mobility, presaging the wing-folding mechanisms seen in more derived birds and suggesting rapid evolution of the carpus. Otherwise, Anchiornis is intermediate in general morphology between non-avian and avian dinosaurs, particularly with regard to relative forelimb length and thickness, and represents a transitional step toward the avian condition. In contrast with some recent comprehensive phylogenetic analyses, our phylogenetic analysis incorporates subtle morphological variations and recovers a conventional result supporting the monophyly of Avialae.


Early Cretaceous maniraptoran theropod coelurosaurian phylogeny wrist evolution avian origin 


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Copyright information

© Science in China Press and Springer-Verlag GmbH 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Xing Xu
    • 1
    Email author
  • Qi Zhao
    • 1
  • Mark Norell
    • 2
  • Corwin Sullivan
    • 1
  • David Hone
    • 1
  • Gregory Erickson
    • 2
    • 3
  • XiaoLin Wang
    • 1
  • FengLu Han
    • 1
    • 4
  • Yu Guo
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and PaleoanthropologyChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.American Museum of Natural HistoryNew YorkUSA
  3. 3.Department of Biological ScienceFlorida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA
  4. 4.Graduate University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina

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