A discovery of rare intermediate fossils in Xinjiang, China of a new species of dinosaur has shed more light on the evolution of the bird-like species. Xiyunykus pengi, classified as an alvarezsaurs, is a type of dinosaur that has many characteristics of birds, including a skull that is more bird-like, with a small body, and smaller teeth unlike the incisors of their carnivore cousins.
The team, comprising international members are the fruits of a partnering venture inked between the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the George Washington University. The findings of the study were published in Current Biology and the highlight was the profiling of a second new intermediate species – the Bannykus wulatensis
James Clark, Professor of Biology at GW Columbian College of Arts and Sciences said that alvarezsaurs, appeared different earlier, stating that earlier findings showed that the members of this group had stronger claws and longer arms with teeth intended for eating meat. The group has then evolved over time into the discovered intermediate species with bird-like single talons and arms like that of a mole. The fossils throw light on how the alvarezsaurs evolved over time. This is in stark contrast to the discovery of fossils in 1993 of Mononykus, tagged as the first.
The ninth dinosaur species identified by the team, the fossils of Xiyunykus pengi were discovered by an expedition team jointly helmed by Dr.Clark and Xing XU of the Chinese Academy of Sciences – the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology. Dr.Xu had this to say, “the findings of the teams showcase a few of the amazing discoveries”. It is not without reason, as the international field teams have met considerable success in unearthing fossils and conducting research into the extinct species.
A member of the research team, Jonah Choiniere, Associate Professor at Wits University, said “it will be difficult to trace the link between animals that appear specialized”. He went on to add that the discovery of intermediate species like Xiyunykus and Bannykus, however, helped link the apparently different anatomical features.