Recently Discovered Bird-Like Dinosaur Throws Scientists a Curveball

Fujianvenator prodigiosus discovered in China in 2023
© UnexpectedDinoLesson / CC BY-SA 4.0

Written by Katie Downey

Updated: October 12, 2023

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Let’s face it; most dinosaurs are strange. This latest specimen is weirder than weird, and we here at A-Z Animals want to tell you how bizarre this new finding truly is. The part that makes this bird-like dinosaur fossil a bit of an oddball other than where it was found is the specifics regarding the size of the fossil.

The Facts About the Fossil

Fujianvenator prodigiosus discovered in China in 2023

Fujianvenator prodigiosus means “bizarre hunter

 

from Fuijian,” which suits it perfectly.

©UnexpectedDinoLesson / CC BY-SA 4.0 – Original / License

The partial skeletal remains of the bird-like dinosaurFujianvenator prodigiosus, were found in Zhenghe County in China’s Fujian province. This avialan species was said to have walked the earth 148 – 150 million years ago during the Jurassic Period. That makes it one of the first bird-like dinosaurs at the end of the period. This fossil allows scientists to glimpse the part of the past they know little about.

The bird-like dinosaur is the size of a pheasant at 1.4 pounds and is unique in that its lower legs are twice the length of its thighs. The odd creature also has arm bones that are quite similar to those of today’s birds. Typically, bird-like dinosaur fossils have been challenging to find due to the fragility of their hollow bones.

What has stumped scientists about the Fujianvenator prodigiosus is the anatomical structure and also the point of the dino-bird’s structure. What was the purpose of the long, thin legs and wing-structured arms, also called propatagium? This was long before birds became birds and had wings. That happened approximately 20 million years after the living Fujianvenator prodigiosus existed. Some scientists believe the physical makeup of this fossil suggests the dino-bird was either a fast runner or a wading dinosaur, similar to cranes.

What Do Scientists Think?

Fuijianvenator prodigiosus skeleton reconstruction

Fuijianvenator prodigiosus skeleton reconstruction.

©Red Natters / CC BY-SA 4.0 – Original / License

When asked for a word to describe Fujianvenator, Min Wang, a paleontologist at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and head of the study, replied, “I would say ‘bizarre.’ Fujianvenator is far from similar to any modern birds.”

Scientists have found plenty of remains of swamp animals that have been dubbed Zhenghe fauna. The list includes fish, turtles, and aquatic reptiles. The feet of the Fuijianvenator prodigiosus remains are not in good shape, so it is unknown if they were webbed. It is uncommon to consider the first birds as swamp beings, but now we know it is possible. The spot in Nanping in Fujian province, China, has never before shown promise as a dinosaur fossil zone. However, there will be a more thorough investigation now that this very early dino-bird was uncovered.

Researchers have said that understanding how birds evolved is still not entirely understood. They were very diverse, and not all flew. Much more is waiting to be discovered about these animals. Enjoy some of A-Z Animals’ other articles on theropod dinosaurs.


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About the Author

Katie Downey is a writer for A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on wildlife, arachnids and insects. Katie has been writing and researching animals for more than a decade. Katie worked in animal rescue and rehabilitation with handicapped cats and farm animals for many years. As a resident of North Carolina, Katie enjoys exploring nature with her son, educating others on the positive role that insects and spiders play in the ecosystem and raising jumping spiders.

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