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a feathered troodontid theropod dinosaur from the Late Jurassic of China.
Pronunciation: ANG-kee-OR-niss
Meaning: Near bird
Author/s: Xu et al. (2009)
Synonyms: None known
First Discovery: Jianchang, China
Chart Position: 545

Anchiornis huxleyi

(Huxley's near-bird)Etymology
Anchiornis is derived from the Greek "Anchi" (nearby) and "ornis" (bird), referring to its very close relationship to birds. The species epithet, huxleyi, honours Thomas Henry Huxley (aka "Darwin's Bulldog") — a pioneer of research into avian origins and the first scientist to suggest a close evolutionary relationship between birds and dinosaurs.
anchiornisThe first fossils of Anchiornis were recovered from the Yaolugou locality in the Tiaojishan Formation, Jianchang County, western Liaoning, China. The holotype (IVPP V14378, housed at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing) is an articulated skeleton complete with feather impressions, but lacking the skull and bits of the tail and right arm. A second specimen (LPM - B00 169), reported on 24th September 2009, was larger than the holotype and virtually covered from head to toe in various kinds of feathers.
Soft tissue
Palaeontologists and Palaeoartists have a tough job trying to discern the exact shape of extinct dinosaurs, mainly because soft tissue—the stuff that adds bulk and form to the fossilised skeletal frame— is rarely found, so reconstructions are arrived at via the study of living dinosaurs—birds, and their distant relatives—crocodilians. Inspired in 2017 by pioneer Tom Kaye, Xiaoli Wang and crew tried to shed some light on the actual form of extinct dinosaurs, funnily enough by dragging a dozen stone slabs containing specimens of Anchiornis into a blacked-out room. Then they blasted them with high-powered ultraviolet lasers to agitate any remnants of soft tissue that were invisible to the naked eye, and literally made them "glow in the dark".
Because of exquisite visible outlines, we already knew that Anchiornis was feathered, and we knew what color those feathers were because of fossilised pigment cells (melanosomes). But thanks to Kaye's technique—called laser-stimulated fluorescence (or LSF), the results of which were captured using a hd camera with a laser blocking filter—we now know that Anchiornis was just as bird-like as expected. It had arms that look just like modern bird wings right down to the patagium (skin flap) in front of the elbow that joins the upper and lower arm, scaley pads on the base of its feet, and even drumstick-shaped legs. Unfortunately, non of the dozen or so specimens revealed any details of the head, neck or thorax, or any evidence to suggest whether Anchiornis was, or was not, capable of flapping-flight.
Era: Mesozoic
Epoch: Late Jurassic
Stage: Oxfordian
Age range: 161-156 mya
Est. max. length: 0.4 meters
Est. max. hip height: 0.1 meters
Est. max. weight: 0.2 Kg
Diet: Carnivore
• Xu X, Q Zhao, M Norell, C Sullivan, D Hone, G Erickson, X Wang, F Han and Y Gao (2009) "A new feathered maniraptoran dinosaur fossil that fills a morphological gap in avian origin".
Chinese Science Bulletin, Vol. 54, No. 3, Pages 430-435.
• Hu D, L Hou, L Zhang, and X Xu (2009) "A pre-Archaeopteryx troodontid theropod from China with long feathers on the metatarsus". Nature 461, Pages 640-643. DOI:10.1038/nature08322.
• Godefroit P, A Cau, H Dong-Yu, F Escuillié, W Wenhao and G Dyke (2013) "A Jurassic avialan dinosaur from China resolves the early phylogenetic history of birds".
Nature 498, Pages 359-362. DOI: 10.1038/nature12168
• Wang X, Pittman M, Zheng X, Kaye TG, Falk AR, Hartman SA and Xu X (2017) "Basal paravian functional anatomy illuminated by high-detail body outline". Nature Communications 8, Article number: 14576 (2017).
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To cite this page:
Atkinson, L. "ANCHIORNIS :: from DinoChecker's dinosaur archive".
›. Web access: 28th Mar 2017.