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Nature. 2004 Oct 21;431(7011):925.

Palaeontology: leg feathers in an Early Cretaceous bird.

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Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, PO Box 643, Beijing 100044, China.


Here we describe a fossil of an enantiornithine bird from the Early Cretaceous period in China that has substantial plumage feathers attached to its upper leg (tibiotarsus). The discovery could be important in view of the relative length and aerodynamic features of these leg feathers compared with those of the small 'four-winged' gliding dinosaur Microraptor and of the earliest known bird, Archaeopteryx. They may be remnants of earlier long, aerodynamic leg feathers, in keeping with the hypothesis that birds went through a four-winged stage during the evolution of flight.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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