New Dinosaur Fossil Has Shockingly Long Legs That Connect it to Ancient Bird Ancestors

Paleontologists Discover Leggy Jurassic Dinosaur Fossil Connected to Modern Birds

An artist's idea of Fujianvenator prodigiosus. (Photo: Zhao Chuang)

Dinosaurs came in all shapes and sizes. The tall and the small, the mean and the lean, armored as well as feathered. While we know many of the ancient creatures that once walked the Earth, there are species that are still being discovered. One of the most recent was announced by Chinese researchers in a Nature paper. This unusual new dinosaur is named Fujianvenator prodigiosus for its location in the Fujian Province, China, and for its “prodigiosus” or bizarre long legs. Its unusual build provides more evidence from the Late Jurassic age on how the ancient ancestors of birds developed.

The fossil was discovered in a curled posture and has much longer legs than most theropod dinosaurs. Usually, this species has hollow bones and three toes on its two legs. Among this group are the ancestors of modern birds, and some are even members of the Avialae clade which also contains modern birds. Previously, Late Jurassic–Early Cretaceous evidence of such fossils was limited. However, this new fossil is intriguing. Its legs are uniquely long, and given its swamp habitat, this may have been for wading or running.

Dr. Wang Min, an author of the study, said in a statement, “Fujianvenator is an odd species that diverged from this main trajectory and evolved bizarre hindlimb architecture. Our comparative analyses show that marked changes in body plan occurred along the early avialan line, which is largely driven by the forelimb, eventually giving rise to the typical bird limb proportion.” While its exact appearance may be lost to time and decomposition, it's possible the beast had iridescent feathers, as similar species have indicated such plumage. Regardless, this “bizarre” dino certainly is an exciting development in piecing together ancient history.

The Fujianvenator prodigiosus is a newly discovered species of dinosaur that has shockingly long legs. Its build is believed to be perfect for either running like a roadrunner or wading like an egret.

Paleontologists Discover Leggy Jurassic Dinosaur Fossil Connected to Modern Birds

The fossil and its leggy bones. (Photo: Xu et al.)

h/t: [IFL Science]

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Madeleine Muzdakis

Madeleine Muzdakis is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met and a historian of early modern Britain & the Atlantic world. She holds a BA in History and Mathematics from Brown University and an MA in European & Russian Studies from Yale University. Madeleine has worked in archives and museums for years with a particular focus on photography and arts education. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys hiking, film photography, and studying law while cuddling with her cat Georgia.
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