Science: Patriarch of the Aviary

For more than a century, many scientists have assumed that the forefather of all birds was a pigeon-size creature that looked like a dinosaur with feathers. Now, however, the 150 million-year-old Archaeopteryx has apparently been dethroned by a specimen named Protoavis ("first bird"), which lived 75 million years before Archaeopteryx. Last week's announcement was based on two fragmentary fossil skeletons found in the arid badlands of western Texas in 1984 by Texas Tech University Paleontologist Sankar Chatterjee. They suggest that Protoavis was a contemporary of the earliest dinosaurs. "If the identification is correct," says Yale Paleobiologist John Ostrom, who has examined...

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