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Well-developed, vaned feathers extended from the short, stubby tail; the hands were long and slender, and had three fingers with sharp, curved, claws. Its bones were hollow, and bird-like, and it possessed a wishbone. It appears to be one of the most primitive members of the Oviraptorosauria and the large incisor teeth suggest that it is closely related to, or synonymous with, Incisivosaurus. It was probably an herbivore or omnivore, although its hands were very similar to those of small carnivorous dinosaurs.
Protarchaeopteryx, known from the Jianshangou bed of the Yixian Formation, lived in the early Aptian age of the Early Cretaceous, 124.6 million years ago. It is probably more primitive than Archaeopteryx, making it a non-avian theropod dinosaur rather than a true avian bird. At around 1 meter (3.3 ft) in length, it would have been larger than Archaeopteryx. Protarchaeopteryx had symmetrical feathers on its arms. Since modern birds that have symmetrical feathers are flightless, and the skeletal structure of Protarchaeopteryx would not support flapping flight, it is assumed that it was flightless as well.
Protarchaeopteryx had long legs, and could have been a quick runner. It had well-developed, vaned feathers extended from a relatively short tail; the hands were long and slender, and had three fingers with sharp, curved claws. Its bones were hollow and bird-like, and it possessed a wishbone. At around 1 metre (3.3 ft) in length, it would have been larger than Archaeopteryx. Protarchaeopteryx also had symmetrical feathers on its tail. Since modern birds that have symmetrical feathers are flightless, and the skeletal structure of Protarchaeopteryx would not support flapping flight, it is assumed that it was flightless as well. It has been suggested that it could have had an arboreal lifestyle, jumping from tree limbs and using its forelimbs for a form of parachuting.
- ^ a b Palmer, D., ed (1999). The Marshall Illustrated Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals. London: Marshall Editions. p. 107. ISBN 1-84028-152-9.
- ^ Zhou, Z. (2006). "Evolutionary radiation of the Jehol Biota: chronological and ecological perspectives." Geological Journal, 41: 377-393.
- ^ Ji, Q., and Ji, S. (1997). "A Chinese archaeopterygian, Protarchaeopteryx gen. nov." Geological Science and Technology (Di Zhi Ke Ji), 238: 38-41. Translated By Will Downs Bilby Research Center Northern Arizona University January, 2001