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Last updated on April 17, 2014 at 21:23 EDT

Jinfengopteryx

Jinfengopteryx, meaning “Golden phoenix feather”, is a genus of maniraptoran dinosaur from the Early Cretaceous or Late Jurassic Period. It was found in the Qiaotou Formation of Hebei Province, China. The age of the specimen is uncertain as the formation where it was found underlies the more well-known Yixian Formation of the Early Cretaceous.

Jinfengopteryx was preserved with extensive impressions of pennaceous* feathers, but lacked flight feathers on the hind legs, which are present in related dinosaurs. This dinosaur is known from a nearly complete articulated skeleton. The bone bed also had several small, oval objects that were reddish-yellow in color. They may be the remains of eggs or seeds that the dinosaur had eaten.

The original description of Jinfengopteryx placed it as the most primitive avialan (bird), and a member of the family Archaeopterygidae. It was still placed with that family in a follow-up paper in 2007. However, Luis Chiappe pointed out that Jinfengopteryx appears to have more in common with the troodontids.

Many other scientists also believe that it may in fact belong to troodontids, partly based on an enlarged claw that’s found on its short second toe. Xu and Norell also suggested that this was a troodontid in 2006, based on body structure and features of the teeth.

After extensive analysis in 2007, Turner and colleagues determined that Jinfengopteryx did belong to the troodontid family, noting that it was the first troodontid specimen to show preserved evidence of feathers.

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Jinfengopteryx