Feathers fly in first bird debate
By Matt McGrath Science reporter, BBC World Service
A chicken-sized dinosaur fossil found in China may have overturned a long-held theory about the origin of birds. For 150 years, a species called Archaeopteryx has been regarded as the first true bird, representing a major evolutionary step away from dinosaurs. But the new fossil suggests this creature was just another feathery dinosaur and not the significant link that palaeontologists had believed. The discovery of Xiaotingia, as it is known, is reported in Nature magazine. The authors of the report argue that three other species named in the past decade might now be serious contenders for the title of "the oldest bird".Archaeopteryx has a hallowed place in science, long hailed as not just the first bird but as one of the clearest examples of evolution in action.
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