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Missing link between dinos and birds found

world Updated: Jun 14, 2007 16:32 IST
PTI
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Chinese scientists have claimed to have discovered a missing link in the evolutionary path between dinosaurs and birds, Gigantoraptor in northern Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

Gigantoraptor erlianensis had a small head, a beak, slim hind legs, a massive body - the size of a Tyrannosaurus - and was covered with feathers.

It couldn't fly, but could run swiftly across the plains of north China 85 million years ago. It was eight metres long, five metres tall and weighed about 1.4 tonnes.

The discovery means the evolutionary path leading dinosaurs towards birds was actually more varied than previously thought, 'China Daily' reported.

The research team uncovered almost 80 per cent of the dinosaur in sedimentary rocks of the Late Cretaceous period in Erlian Basin.

Fossil specimens were unearthed in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region about two years ago but the evolutionary link between the dinosaur and the bird family is being officially released only on Thursday in the prestigious 'Nature' magazine.

"It is unique because the dinosaur has bird's features, but a much larger body than other known bird-like dinosaur species living earlier or later," said Xu Xing, a palaeontologist from the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Palaeonanthropology affiliated to the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Gigantoraptor belonged to the Oviraptorosauria family, dinosaurs which lived in the Late Cretaceous period (about 65 to 100 million years ago).

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