Washington, January 29 (ANI): A team of Chinese palaeontologists has found a new species of dinosaur dating back to 160 million years, which bolsters the bird-dino connection, as it exhibits characteristics associated with both dinosaurs and birds.
According to a report in Discovery News, the researchers found a long-legged, toothy, stubby-armed, three-fingered dinosaur that was an important early member of the lineage that includes birds and their closest dinosaur relatives.
Called Haplocheirus sollers, it is about 10 million years older than what is believed to be the world's first known bird, Archaeopteryx, and exhibits characteristics associated with both dinosaurs and birds.
The new species helps to fill in the fossil record and cement the long-held view that birds did indeed emerge out of the Maniraptora 'hand snatcher' clade.
"Many dinosaurs are very bird-like and early birds are dinosaur-like," said co-author Professor Xing Xu, adding that there is still debate over the exact moment when birds first emerged.
Xu and his colleagues analysed the new dinosaur, discovered in orange mudstone beds at Junggar Basin in Xinjiang, China.
According to Xu, the researchers determined it was "a relatively small carnivorous dinosaur" about 2 metres long with a slender head and "numerous small teeth."
The "hand snatcher" description seems quite appropriate in this case, since the dinosaur's hands had three strong fingers, with the middle finger being "much more robust than the others."
H. sollers belonged to the Alvarezsauroidea group of dinosaurs, now thought to have originated in Asia.
Later members possessed a single, massive claw on each hand that was probably used for digging.
The impressive middle finger on the new dinosaur likely represented an early evolutionary stage for this claw.
The new dinosaur, which was big for a bird but small for a dinosaur, also shows how some dinosaurs shrunk down to bird size over time.
H. sollers is the world's largest and oldest known alvarezsauroid - 63 million years older than other known members of this group. (ANI)