Early Cretaceous

Liaoning China

Liaoning now considered by most experts to date from the Early Cretaceous. At that time the region was occupied by a shallow, warm lake with abundant fish and bird life. The lake itself lay in a fault basin flanked by volcanoes, and it is this particular feature that makes the area so important. Sporadic volcanic eruptions killed large numbers of animals and buried the remains rapidly before significant decomposition could take place. These specialized conditions have resulted in better preservation of soft tissue than is found virtually anywhere else, including the famous Solnhofen deposits in Germany that preserved the Archaeopteryx feather. Dragonfly wings, feathers and fur are all preserved, and coupled with an enormous number and type of fossilized animals, it is not surprising that the site is viewed as one of the most exciting and promising yet discovered. A rich fauna of insects, molluscs, crustaceans, fish (more than 10,000 specimens of 1 species of freshwater fish, Lycoptera), mammals and birds (including hundreds of skeletons of Confuciusornis) have been recovered, but, at least in recent years, these have to some extent been surpassed by the dinosaurs. Following the discovery of the controversial and still hotly debated “feathered dinosaur” Sinosauropteryx in 1992, the region has yielded Protarchaeopteryx, Caudipteryx (both now considered dinosaurs rather
than primitive birds as originally suggested), the therizinosaurid Beipiaosaurus and the dromaeosaurid Sinornithosaurus. All of these dinosaurs exhibit the remains of integumentary fibres that are either definitely feathers (Protarchaeopteryx and Caudipteryx) or more arguably some sort of proto-feather. Feathers clearly did not evolve primarily for flight, and may have developed for insulation, display, or even as a metabolic clearance system for excess sulphur), it is generally considered that the discovery of a genuine feathered dinosaur would be the definitive proof of the dinosaurian origin of birds. Thus the announcement by Chinese paleontologists that they had discovered just such a beast was met with claim and counter-claim. Sinosauropteryx, a basal coelurosaur related to Compsognathus, shows evidence of some type of integumentary structure, but after lengthy and often heated debate, it is still not clear exactly what these structures might be. They are clearly not modern feathers, and almost as clearly not a collagen frill as some have proposed. Whether they are some sort of proto-feather remains to be seen. While the jury may still be out on the integument of Sinosauropteryx, for three more Chinese finds from the same area there is no doubt at all that they are feathered. Protarchaeopteryx and Caudipteryx were first announced as basal birds, largely on the basis of their feathers. However, several investigators have since demonstrated by cladistic analysis that both are theropods - Caudipteryx is an oviraptorosaur andProtarchaeopteryx a maniraptoran. Finally, a feathered therizinosaurid, Beipiaosaurus, was discovered, as well as the dromaeosaurid Sinornithosaurus and several other similar specimens. Despite counter-claims that these are simply flightless birds, most seem to accept that feathers arose within the theropod lineage somewhere, the remaining question being just how far back were they represent

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Carnegie Safari and Safari Ltd ANHM Feathered Dino tube Mircroraptor gui.

Microraptor zhaoianus (Small robber) is the name given to fossils which includes the dromaeosaurid rear half of the infamous chimera Archaeoraptor. It is the first dinosaur that is smaller than Archaeopteryx. Fuzz-like remains from the pelvic area are similar to that of Beipiaosaurus and Sinornithosaurus but with a central rachis. Microraptor gui the second species show complete covering of 2 types of feathers proto-feathers and flight feathers. It may have been a 4-winged glider. The legs of the two-pound creature could have been held below the body in flight, creating two staggered wing sections, the upper one slightly ahead of the lower one. One other flying dinosaur, Pedopenna, also had feathers on its legs and modern raptors such as falcons have short feathers on their upper legs which reduce air resistance as they fly.

Carnegie Safari BeipiaosaurusBeipiaosaurus (Lizard from Beipiao) is yet another of the exciting new finds from the Liaoning area of China. The discoverers believe that integumentary filaments up to 70 mm (2.75 in) in length similar to those of Sinosauropteryx represent proto-feathers and suggest that such structures may have been broadly distributed among non-avian theropods. Beipiaosaurus differs from other therizinosaurs in having a larger
skull, and morphological differences in the teeth, hand, pelvis and feet.

Carnegie Safari Caudipteryx. The Feathered Dinosaurs series are the finest piece of work by Forest Rogers the sculptor for the Carnegie Safari series. They have set a new standard for toy lines These vinyl toy figures are equal to or superior to the resin display figures from Japan.. Ironically Forest had proposed a feathered Caudipteryx years earlier but the Safari management at the time felt the public wasn't ready. New management a Safari coupled with the well published finds in Liaoning gave the go ahead to stun collectors and excite kids. Caudipteryx (Tail feather) is characterized by paired feathers on either side of the end of the tail, long feathers on its arms and evidence that its entire body may have been covered with feathers of some sort, including down-like covering. Feathers are symmetrical, with shorter arms and the long legs indicate that it probably could not fly and was a ground dwelling runner.

Carnegie Safari Dilong.Dilong (Emperor Dragon) is a small, basal tyrannosauroid with relatively long arms and three-fingered hands. Although its skull shows many characteristics of tyrannosaurids, its postcranial skeleton is more like a coelurosaurian. It is the earliest known definite tyrannosauroid, and the integumentary structures found associated with some tail bones resemble those of Sinornithosaurus and other Liaoning coelurosaurs and represent the first evidence of such “feather-like” features in tyrannosaurs.

Yutyrannus huali, a medium size tyrannosauroid that is the largest known feathered dinosaur and the apex predator in Yixian.Yutyrannus