Dinosaurs and Birds

By Mario Ritter

This is the VOA Special English SCIENCE REPORT.

A debate has continued in the scientific community concerning the ancestors of modern birds. Some scientists believe birds developed from the ancient creatures called dinosaurs. Others believe birds developed separately.

A recent discovery seems to support the idea that birds developed from dinosaurs. Nature magazine has published a report by Chinese and American researchers. It describes the first clear evidence of a dinosaur with feathers. Ji Qiang of the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences in Beijing and Mark Norell of the American Museum of Natural History in New York wrote the report.

Fossils are the mineral remains of bones buried millions of years ago. The fossil of a feather-covered dinosaur was discovered in Liaoning Province in northeastern China. Several fossils of dinosaurs with feathers have been found in this area of China. But, it is not always easy to confirm fossil discoveries.

Last year, we reported that a fossil dinosaur with feathers was found to be false. But, this most recent discovery appears to be confirmed.

The dinosaur was about a meter long. It walked on two legs and had a feather-like covering all over its body. The small dinosaur did not have wings and could not fly. But some of its bone structure was similar to that of birds. The animal lived about one-hundred-thirty-million years ago.

Hans-Dieter Sues of the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Canada says the fossil evidence shows that non-flying dinosaurs had a feather covering. Mr. Sues says the most recent fossils provide strong evidence that birds developed from dinosaurs.

Both Chinese and American researchers now believe that feathers developed to keep dinosaurs warm. They believe that some dinosaurs may have been warm-blooded like mammals and birds are today. For many years, paleontologists studying dinosaurs have thought that some dinosaurs may have been warm-blooded. Now the confirmed discovery of a non-flying dinosaur with feathers appears to support that theory.

The theory that feathers covered many dinosaurs requires a great change in the way we imagine those ancient creatures. In the Latin language, "dinosaur" means "terrible lizard." Instead, dinosaurs may have looked like terribly large birds.

This VOA Special English SCIENCE REPORT was written by Mario Ritter.