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Sinosauropteryx prima (Ji Qiang and Ji Shuan, 1996)

Name Means: "Chinese dragon feather" Length: 4 feet (1.3 m)
Pronounced: SIEN-o-sawr-OP-ter-iks Weight: 5.5 pounds (2.5 kg)
When it lived: Early Cretaceous - 130 MYA    
Where found: Liaoning Province, China    

  Sinosauropteryx is the first dinosaur fossil ever found that showed evidence of having feathers .It has been called one of the most exciting scientific discoveries in decades. This animal was not a bird, but rather a theropod dinosaur.
  This Chinese fossil clearly shows defined feathers around much of this little dinosaur! It was a small, swift hunter that could not fly, but it seems to demonstrate that dinosaurs were beginning to look and act more like birds. It is a very important fossil for a number of reasons. First, and perhaps most importantly, it is a critical piece of evidence supporting the argument that birds descended from dinosaurs. Additionally, depending on its exact classification, it shows that at least some non-avian coelurosaurs were feathered. The exact use of the feathers will be debated for some time. They are clearly not flight feathers, but they may have been used for insulation, courtship display, individual identification, or a combination of all of these.
   It all began in 1994, when farmer Li Yinfang broke open a slab of rock in the Province of Liaoning in northeastern China. He was amazed to find the complete skeleton of a long-tailed turkey sized animal appeared. He knew he had discovered something very important. 
    This exciting new species was first reported by Ji and Ji in 1996, then received further studies by Chen, Dong and Zhen in 1998 and Currie and Chen in 2001. Sinosauropteryx is important not only because of its integument, but also because it is a basal coelurosaur and represents an important stage in theropod evolution that is poorly understood. Sinosauropteryx has the longest tail of any known theropod, and a three-fingered hand dominated by the first finger, which is longer and thicker than either of the bones of the forearm. It also has a thick coat of feather-like structures, which seem to be simple branching structures. One specimen of Sinosauropteryx also preserves stomach contents, and a pair of eggs in the abdomen.
    The area of Liaoning Province where Sinosauropteryx was found is extremely rich in 140 million year old fossils. By studying fossil sites we know what animals and plants existed at the same period in time as Sinosauropteryx. This information allows us to write the story you are about to read.
    Three complete skeletons of Sinosauropteryx have been found, including unlaid eggs and some internal organs.  It was a meat-eater as one specimen had the jawbone of a mammal in its stomach.  The jawbone was not enough to identify the mammal. 

 

 

 

 

 


 

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