A new feathered dinosaur that is characterised by less extensive feathers on its limbs and tail than its sister taxa has been discovered in the western Liaoning Province in China and is reported in Nature Communications. The finding suggests that the plumage of feathered theropod dinosaurs, which were diverse in the Late Cretaceous, was already diversified and had adapted to different ecological niches by the Late Jurassic.
The new theropod - Eosinopteryx brevipenna gen. et sp. nov - described by Pascal Godefroit and colleagues resembles its sister taxa, Anchiornis. However, the feathers of Eosinopteryx are less extensive on the limbs and tail than on Anchiornis. These adaptations suggest that Eosinopteryx was able to run more easily than Anchiornis.
The finding implies a more complex picture for the origin of flight in the Jurassic, where similar body-plans may have occupied different niches in the same ecosystem.
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