Fossil hunters are very competitive, a new discovery could mean fame, money, and other sorts of media like movies and tv-shows. A fossil was discovered in China back in 2005. The discoverer has claim it puts to rest the controversy over bird evolution. Nature recently writes about those claims as science daily does as well…
The transition from dinosaurs to birds is poorly understood because of the lack of well-preserved fossils, and many scientists argue that bird-like dinosaurs appear too late in the fossil record to be the true ancestors of birds.
In the journal Nature this week, Xing Xu and colleagues describe an exceptionally well-preserved fossil of Anchiornis huxleyi from the province of Liaoning, China. Long feathers cover the arms and tail, but also the feet, suggesting that a four-winged stage may have existed in the transition to birds.
“Extensive feathering of the pes [foot] is also seen in some modern birds, and serves an insulating or protective function. In most cases the feathers are not organized into a coherent planar surface as in Microraptor, Pedopenna and Anchiornis, which indicates that the pedal feathers of these fossil taxa may have differed from those of extant birds in having an aerodynamic function.
This would imply that a four-winged condition played a role in the origin of avian flight, as suggested by previous studies, although this conclusion is not universally accepted. However, the significant differences noted above between the large pedal feathers of Anchiornis and those of Microraptor suggest that these feathers might have been less aerodynamically effective in Anchiornis than in Microraptor.”
The argument of this fossil actually makes evolution more cloudy than ever on this issue because going from four wings to two wings is devolution rather than progressing evolution. There is no clear picture of evolutionary powered flight. It’s uncertain if this animal could actually fly or even the feathers were nothing more than used for insulation.
It is certain that this represents another species that went extinct among a majority of past species that did likewise. Birds as we continue to study them, have designed bones with wings and respiratory systems for powered flight. The specified complexities of birds coming from dinosaurs holds no real water. An odd ball such as Anchiornis doesn’t necessarily mean bird evolution.