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An artist's rendition of Haplocheirus sollers  (Source: Portia Sloan)

The skull of the beast shows similarities to its cousins, the ancestors of modern birds. However, the creature's lacks some of the bird-like features of later members of the family, showing that the features likely evolved in parallel in both birds and the related dinosaur group.  (Source:
Newly discovered dinosaur shows that in evolution lightning can and does strike twice

A newly discovered dinosaur in the Alvarezsauridae group has revealed that bird-like features likely evolved twice, both in dinosaurs and in the ancestors to modern birds.  Previously, the group was thought to be ancestors of modern birds, rather than evolutionary cousins. 

Describes Jonah Choiniere from George Washington University in an interview with BBC News,  "Haplocheirus is a transitional fossil.  Previously we thought the Alvarezsauridae were primitive, flightless birds. This discovery shows they're not and that the similarities between them evolved in parallel."

Like birds, the group of dinosaurs has fused wrists and loosely assembled skull bones, leading many paleontologists to believe that they might be the ancestors of birds.  The beasts may also have had feathers, according to analysis in the late 90s and onward.

However, anatomical analysis of a 3-meter long nearly complete skeleton of a new species in the group indicates that the group likely diverged from the line of dinosaurs that evolved into birds, and that the bird-like features emerged in parallel, not in series.  The new skeleton was dubbed Haplocheirus sollers and was found in the China's Gobi desert.  The skeleton was noticed by a member of a team excavating in the orange mudstone beds in the Junggar Basin of the Xinjiang province.  The member saw the pelvis of the dinosaur sticking out of the ground -- and the rest of the skeleton was found soon after.

Professor Choiniere describes, the results of the subsequent analysis, stating, "The rest of the members of this group have really short forelimbs with huge muscle attachments, like body-builder arms. The fossil shows the first step in the evolution of this weird arm and claw."

The new dinosaur is thought to have lived 160 million years ago, making it the oldest member of the family found to date.  Birds and Alvarezsauridae likely split not long before the evolution of the new find, say researchers.  Both group s likely are descended from the bird-footed dinosaurs of the early Jurassic, which include such famous members as the T. Rex and Velociraptor.

The new find likely was primarily an insectivore (as evidenced by its small teeth).  Its small claws were quite agile and would have been ideal for digging, leading researchers to speculate it likely ate termites, which were plentiful in its era and locale.  However, that likely didn't stop the versatile reptile from trying different cuisine. Describes Professor Choiniere, "It may have had a very general diet, tackling smaller animals like lizards, very small mammals and very small crocodile relatives.  It was a lightly built animal and could run very quickly."

The new work was reported in the journal Science.

The truly fascinating thing about this find is that it fuels the theory that in evolution lightning can, and likely will strike twice -- similar designs can evolve in parallel out of a common need.  Thus much of the anatomy in science fiction -- such as teeth on the titular Alien or giant wings and feathers of the flying monsters of Avatar -- may be realistic.  If life is found on other planets similar to Earth, it may show striking similarities as our own planet's fossil record indicates.

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RE: Seriously now.
By wgbutler on 2/1/2010 1:27:55 PM , Rating: 1
I agree with your assessment. It's amazing how all of the assumptions from the theory of macro-evolution need to be reconsidered every time someone discovers a new fossil. What a house of cards that whole viewpoint is built upon!

For a long time the evos beat us over the head with the tetrapod fossils as transitional forms, UNTIL we recently discovered a tetrapod showing up millions of years earlier than anyone thought, blowing the whole "transitional form" thing out of the water (no pun intended!).

See this link for more info:

And I agree with you on the convergent evolution explanation. It's a catch all for anything that doesn't match up with their predictions. It's kind of like global warming, if the Earth gets hotter its because of global warming, but if the Earth gets cooler its also because of global warming. Likewise if the fossils meet our predictions its because of evolution, but if they don't meet our predictions its because of convergent evolution, so evolution wins out either way!

Clever, and laughable. Hundreds of years from now people will look back on this era of history and be amazed that people ever thought of things like this.

RE: Seriously now.
By Thats Mr Gopher to you on 2/1/2010 3:12:02 PM , Rating: 2
It's a catch all for anything...

As opposed to the old reliable fall back to the magic man in the sky.

Having to make changes to the 'map of evolution' as new evidence is found in no way invalidates the theory. As we collect more fossils and evidence we get a better idea of the theory and can fill in the gaps, making amendments where necessary.

That's how science works. Science has the ability to correct itself when wrong and update theories.

Religious beliefs that rely on literal readings of thousands of years old texts have no room for new thinking regardless of evidence, which is why arguing with people like you is pointless so I'm going to stop... now... I was only using this as a means of procrastination anyway...

RE: Seriously now.
By gamerk2 on 2/1/2010 4:00:12 PM , Rating: 2
Agreed. Science changes known on observable facts. In this case, with so many family lines missing, a single change can effect the entire geneologly of an entire species. All this find does is prove that simmilar traits can develop outside of a single family at any one point in time, meaning evoltion isn't as stright as some scientists thought.

In regards to the GW point above, localized cooling in the Western Hemisphere was a predicted outcome of climate change to begin with (due to change in weather patterns, specifically the air currents that cycle hot air father to the east). Nevermind that the entire planet of Venus (which is hotter then mercury due to GW run amok) is a perfect example of the effects CO2 can have.

RE: Seriously now.
By Fritzr on 2/2/2010 4:35:56 AM , Rating: 2
On a similar note. Read Genesis. Adam and Eve had three children. 1 died, the other 2 traveled to a neighboring kingdom and returned with wives. Adam and Eve then had additional children.

Assume the Bible is the literal unassailable truth. Adam and Eve are the only humans on Earth until their children are born. At the time their children travel to a neighboring kingdom and return with wives there are only 4 people alive on Earth. What species populated the neighboring kingdoms? How is it that this other species would be willing to marry their daughters off to this new species that had been spontaneously created somewhere just outside their borders?

Be careful when making assumptions :P

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