A Primitive Enantiornithine Bird and the Origin of Feathers

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Science  08 Dec 2000:
Vol. 290, Issue 5498, pp. 1955-1959
DOI: 10.1126/science.290.5498.1955

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A fossil enantiornithine bird, Protopteryx fengningensisgen. et sp. nov., was collected from the Early Cretaceous Yixian Formation of Northern China. It provides fossil evidence of a triosseal canal in early birds. The manus and the alular digit are long, as inArchaeopteryx and Confuciusornis, but are relatively short in other enantiornithines. The alula or bastard wing is attached to an unreduced alular digit. The two central tail feathers are scalelike without branching. This type of feather may suggest that modern feathers evolved through the following stages: (i) elongated scale, (ii) central shaft, (iii) barbs, and finally (iv) barbules and barbicel.

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