Writing in a recent issue of Springer's Journal of Ornithology, a team of researchers argue that, according to new data, it might be that dinosaurs are not the forefathers of modern birds after all.
Otherwise put, it appears that, contrary to popular opinion, the birds that inhabit our planet in this day and age did not evolve from dinosaurs, but from other animals that for some reason took to the skies.
As detailed in the Journal of Ornithology, this claim is based on information obtained while studying the fossilized remains of an ancient creature similar to a sparrow in size and dubbed Scansoriopteryx, Phys Org tells us.
The remains were unearthed in present-day Inner Mongolia some time ago, and the researchers who first had the chance to study them were quick to label them as belonging to a dinosaur listed among the ancestors of modern birds.
However, specialist Stephen Czerkas with the Dinosaur Museum in Blanding, Utah, together with scientist Alan Feduccia with the University of North Carolina, argues that this is not the case.
On the contrary, these researchers are quite convinced that, rather than belonging to a coelurosaurian theropod dinosaur, the fossilized remains were left behind by a tree-climbing animal whose anatomy allowed it to glide.
Thus, Stephen Czerkas and Alan Feduccia say that, after having a closer look at the Scansoriopteryx remains discovered in Inner Mongolia, they found that this creature simply did not display enough anatomical particularities to be classified as a dinosaur.
In their paper, the specialists maintain that, although not a dinosaur through and through, this ancient tree-climbing creature appears to have been one of the first bird-like animals to roam the Earth. Hence, chances are it is an ancestor to modern birds.
Otherwise put, these researchers believe that birds evolved from creatures like Scansoriopteryx, whose anatomical makeup allowed them to parachute themselves from trees or glide through their surroundings quite gracefully.
Interestingly enough, the specialists say that, given the outcome of their investigation, perhaps it might not be such a bad idea if the scientific community were to take the time to revise the theory that modern birds evolved from dinosaurs from beginning to end.
“The identification of Scansoriopteryx as a non-dinosaurian bird enables a reevaluation in the understanding of the relationship between dinosaurs and birds. Scientists finally have the key to unlock the doors that separate dinosaurs from birds,” argues Stephen Czerkas.
“Instead of regarding birds as deriving from dinosaurs, Scansoriopteryx reinstates the validity of regarding them as a separate class uniquely avian and non-dinosaurian,” adds Alan Feduccia.