Dinosaurs have long captured the imagination while their relationships have eluded full explanation. Innovative research and a comprehensive consideration of the old can also inspire new interpretations, as researchers recently found when examining the evidence supporting the current theory about feather origins and the relationships of birds and dinosaurs.
All experts agree that birds are related to theropod dinosaurs; however, debate has raged on over whether today's winged creatures are derived directly from advanced theropods, or from an earlier shared ancestor. The current theory supports direct derivation, but recent fossil discoveries in China have led to new questions about the claim. The Chinese discoverers reported finding all stages of feather evolution and ancestral birds, even though the deposits are at least 25 million years younger than those containing the earliest known bird Archaeopteryx.
Researchers, led by Alan Feduccia of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, considered the new findings in the context of the existing literature and furthered the knowledge base with additional experiments. Theagarten Lingham-Soliar of the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa examined the skin of modern reptiles, the effects of decomposition on skin, and the fossil evidence relating to alleged feather progenitors (protofeathers). Richard Hinchliffe of the University College of Wales also examined evidence relating to the tridactyl hand, which is co
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