Monday, June 14, 2010
Here is some basic info on Caudipteryx (a member of Oviraptorosauria). I will analyze it in the next post.
"Caudipteryx (which means "tail feather") is a genus of peacock-sized theropod dinosaurs that lived in the Aptian age of the early Cretaceous Period (about 124.6 million years ago). They were feathered and remarkably birdlike in their overall appearance.
Caudipteryx had uncinate processes on the ribs, birdlike teeth, a first toe which may or may not be partially reversed and overall body proportions that are comparable to those of modern flightless birds.
The hands of Caudipteryx supported symmetrical, pennaceous feathers that had vanes and barbs, and that measured between 15–20 centimeters long (6–8 inches). These primary feathers were arranged in a wing-like fan along the second finger, just like primary feathers of birds and other maniraptorans.
"Because Caudipteryx has clear and unambiguously pennaceous feathers, like modern birds, and because several cladistic analyses have consistently recovered it as a nonavian, oviraptorid, dinosaur, it provided, at the time of its description, the clearest and most succinct evidence that birds evolved from dinosaurs. Lawrence Witmer stated: “The presence of unambiguous feathers in an unambiguously nonavian theropod has the rhetorical impact of an atomic bomb, rendering any doubt about the theropod relationships of birds ludicrous.” (Witmer 2005)
"However, not all scientists agreed that Caudipteryx was unambiguously non-avian, and some of them continued to doubt that general consensus. Paleornithologist Alan Feduccia sees Caudipteryx as a flightless bird evolving from earlier archosaurian dinosaurs [actually pterosaurs] rather than from late theropods. Jones et al. (2000) found that Caudipteryx was a bird based on a mathematical comparison of the body proportions of flightless birds and non-avian theropods. Dyke and Norell (2005) criticized this result for flaws in their mathematical methods, and produced results of their own which supported the opposite conclusion.
Other researchers not normally involved in the debate over bird origins, such as Zhou, acknowledged that the true affinities of Caudipteryx were debatable.
"The consensus view, based on several cladistic analyses, is that Caudipteryx is a basal (primitive) member of the Oviraptoridae, and the oviraptorids are nonavian theropod dinosaurs. Incisivosaurus is the only oviraptorid that is more primitive.
"Halszka Osmólska et al. (2004) ran a cladistic analysis that came to a different conclusion. They found that the most birdlike features of oviraptorids actually place the whole clade within Aves itself, meaning that Caudipteryx is both an oviraptorid and a bird. In their analysis, birds evolved from more primitive theropods, and one lineage of birds became flightless, re-evolved some primitive features, and gave rise to the oviraptorids. This analyis was persuasive enough to be included in paleontological textbooks like Benton's Vertebrate Paleontology (2005). The view that Caudipteryx was secondarily flightless is also preferred by Gregory S. Paul, Lü et al., and Maryańska et al.
"Others, such as Stephen Czerkas and Larry Martin have concluded that Caudipteryx is not a theropod dinosaur at all. They believe that Caudipteryx, like all maniraptorans, is a flightless bird, and that birds evolved from non-dinosaurian archosaurs [eg. pterosaurs]."
Posted by Dr. Pterosaur at 2:35 PM