Chinese researchers have unearthed the fossil of a bird-like dinosaur with four wings in northeastern China.
In a paper in the journal Nature, they said they found the well-preserved fossil of the "Anchiornis huxleyi", which roamed the earth some 160 million years ago, in a geological formation in China's northeastern Liaoning province.
About the size of a chicken, the fossil has a total body length of less than 50cm (20 inches) and a skull about 6cm long, lead researcher Xing Xu at the Chinese Academy of Science in Beijing told Reuters in an email.
"This finding suggests that birds are likely to be descended from a kind of small-sized four-winged dinosaur about 160 million years ago," Xu said.
In a statement, the researchers said: "Long feathers cover the arms and tail, but also the feet, suggesting that a four-winged stage may have existed in the transition to birds."
Last Mod: 29 Eylül 2009, 12:40
The transition from dinosaurs to birds is still poorly understood because of the lack of well-preserved fossils, and many scientists believe bird-like dinosaurs appear too late in the fossil record to be the true ancestors of birds.