As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Monday 18 March 2013

Some Primitive Birds Flew With 4 Wings, Study Says

First, paleontologists spread the word that modern birds are actually living dinosaurs. Then came the news from China that some dinosaurs and related reptiles long ago seemed to be marvelous four-winged creatures, seemingly on standby at some runway for takeoff in flight as early birds. 

Now, Chinese scientists have made a detailed analysis of 11 four-winged fossil specimens that lived about 130 million years ago. They reported Thursday in the journal Science that the study provided the first “solid evidence” that some recently excavated primitive bird species had also adopted the four-wing body plan before they ditched the hind-limb feathers and continued alone with the presumably more efficient feathered forelimb wings. 

This evolutionary transition in early birds, the Chinese paleontologists said, “may have played an important role in the evolution of flight.” 

At the time, these “basal bird” species appeared to be replacing their hind-limb feathers with scales and developing more birdlike feet. The researchers suggested that the four-winged creatures were already getting ready to use their hind limbs for terrestrial locomotion, like the robin pursuing worms on a lawn or the disputatious crow strutting around an overturned trash can. 

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