Similarities between Archaeopteryx and Deinonychus include three-toed feet, sharp-toothed jaws, wishbones, and a long, bony tail. Archaeopteryx also bore claws on its very-reduced forelimb fingers – something no bird alive today can boast. On the flip side, there have been quite a few theropod fossils discovered that have bird-like characteristics, the most notable being feathers; the first dinosaur fossil found with feathers (or feather impressions, to be exact) is that of Sinosauropteryx (pronounced SIGN-o-sar-OPT-er-ix).
Photo 3: Sinosaurpteryx fossil from China.
This 140 million-year-old dinosaur, which measures in at less than half a foot tall and about two feet long, was discovered in the 1990’s in China’s Liaoning province (an unusually fossil-rich region) by full-time farmer part-time fossil hunter Li Yinfang. As you might be able to tell from its picture, Sinosauropteryx was endowed with small yet entirely respectable feathers: sweet! Now, between Archaeopteryx, Deinonychus, and Sinosauropteryx, I hope you're starting to see why birds are considered dinosaurs by 99% of paleontologists.
Deinonychus, and Sinosauropteryx, I hope you're starting to see why birds are considered dinosaurs by 99% of paleontologists.
Anyhow, there you have it, folks. While there are a million more words to be said about the birds-are-dinosaurs topic, I think I’ll let you digest the small morsels given above. You can also now relish in the fact that the next time someone points at a bird and says “I think I read somewhere that birds are dinosaurs,” you’ll be able to say “yes, that’s 100% correct. Birds are non-avian dinosaurs derived from theropods,” to which they’ll probably reply “oh, snap!”
Next up: QA #3 How much lava, exactly, erupts from an exploding volcano? Is there much variability?