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.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Laser scanning could reveal when dinosaurs started flying

March 1, 2017

by John Hopton 

Scientists have revealed details of a chicken-like dinosaur that existed around the same time birds first appeared on Earth.

Chinese and American researchers believe the Jurassic creature named Anchiornis, a feathered dinosaur from about 160 million years ago, could hold important information on the missing link between land-bound and flying creatures.

Fossilized Anchiornis bones were studied using lasers, and traces of soft tissue were observed.

"We shone violet lasers at Anchiornis specimens in a dark room to cause them to glow in the dark, revealing amazing details," said Michael Pittman of the University of Hong Kong, who co-authored the study in Nature Communications. "This revealed the first quantitative high-detail outline of a feathered dinosaur."

The process involved a new technique called laser-stimulated fluorescence (LSF).

A flap at the front of the dinosaur's elbow was revealed by the lasers, a feature which in present day birds is called the propatagium, a feathered, boneless leading edge of a wing. It is important for flight.

"The fact that we find this really neat wing in an older bird-like animal is really exciting," said Pittman.

Equally interesting is the fact that Anchiornis appeared to have four wings rather than two.

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