Microraptor: The Missing Link Between Birds and Dinosaurs
In December of 2000, three Chinese scientists reported the discovery of the smallest adult dinosaur ever found, a species that claims to tighten the evolutionary gap between dinosaurs and birds. The dinosaur’s specie name is Microraptor, and it is slowly restoring the integrity of a sect of paleontology that was discredited in November of 1999 after National Geographic printed a story on the discovery of a species known as Archeoraptor. The magazine “trumpeted the story as the ‘missing link’ between birds and dinosaurs,” only for the scientific world and later the public to discover that the skeletal composite built was a, “primitive bird with a dinosaurian tail glued on” (Holden).
The discovery of Archeoraptor was not a total waste of time, however. The dinosaurian half of this faulty species, the tail, in truth actually did help to close the gap between birds and dinosaurs. The tail that was found turned out to be the tail of a Microraptor. The Chinese farmer, who originally discovered the ruins of what came to be known as Microraptor, stumbled across them in the same fossil beds that had housed the remains of inadequate Archeoraptor (Tiny, Feathered). The remains were found in Xiasanjiazi, Chaoyang County in fossil beds composed of layers of rocks known as the Jiufotang Formation, which dates back to the early Cretaceous period, and underlain by the famous Yixian Formation. This formation, “has yielded more than 1,000 specimens of early birds and feathered dinosaurs” (Wang, Xu & Zhou).
Xing Xu, one of the three scientists credited with the discovery of Microraptor bought the specimens the Chinese farmer had found for $5000 (Tiny, Feathered). He then took them back to his lab where he and his colleagues, Zhonghe Zhou and Xiaolin Wang, discovered another tail similar to that of Archeoraptor. This time, however, the finding was different because along with the well-known tail the most of the body to which it belonged was also recovered.
A full skeleton of the Microraptor was not found. The middle section of the creature, or the trunk could not be recovered. However, scientist did uncover the skull (with teeth intact), ribs and tail, along with bones making up the front and back legs. The distinct claws of this species were also found intact upon the legs (Wang, Xu & Zhou).
However, for some scientists the most important findings from this discovery were not that of the bones themselves but the discovery impressions in the sediment around the bones.
The sediments that surrounded the bones of the Microraptor where detailed with carbonized impressions of feathers, that once outlined organism’s body. These impressions indicate that its feathered covering was very similar to that of modern-day birds currently living in the Chaoyang County region of China. Discoveries of such impression are not new and have been found among the ruins of other feathered dinosaurs....