Dinosaur-headed bird found in China

(ORDO NEWS) — There is little doubt that birds evolved from dinosaurs, but what exactly this transition was is still a big mystery.

And this time, the Chinese find only further complicated the task for scientists: a new species that lived 120 million years ago turned out to have the body of a bird and the head of a reptile.

In the Cretaceous period , many bird-like creatures lived on Earth, which outwardly practically did not differ from today’s birds, but still carried the anatomical heritage of reptiles.

It can be quite difficult to distinguish between two classes, and a new animal species found in China turned out to be a real “living puzzle”: it has a body that is quite suitable for a bird, but the skull of a typical lizard.

Researchers from the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (China) named the new species Kratonavis ( Cratonavis zhui ).

They placed it on the evolutionary tree between the lizard-like Archeopteryx , which still bears a strong resemblance to a carnivorous dinosaur, and Ornithotoracs, which already include birds in the broadest sense of the word.

After conducting a CT scan of the skull of Kratonavis, the researchers found that morphologically it is almost identical to the skull of a carnivorous dinosaur, such as a tyrannosaurus rex.

Kratonavis had a fixed beak, unable to move independently of the skull, and jaws studded with sharp teeth that helped to catch small prey.

As for the structure of the body, in this the kratonavis was already slightly different from the modern sparrow: judging by the structure of the shoulder blade, it could fly, and the hind limbs were adapted to capture victims with claws and sit on branches, and not move along the ground.

Dinosaur headed bird found in China 2
The Kratonavis skeleton is very well preserved, although the skull was broken during the fossilization process

In other words, we have before us an evolutionary chimera generated by conflicting ecological demands: animals at that time, as it were, still could not decide whether they wanted to run after prey on the ground, like dinosaurs, or attack it from the air, like birds of prey.

However, Kratonavis is not unique in this regard: in the era of dinosaurs, many “puzzles” roamed the Earth not only birds, but also mammals in which the characteristic features of their descendants were collected bit by bit.

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