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Note: due to an apparent declining interest in our journal posts, we will no longer be doing a scheduled "featured monthly topic" at Domain-of-Darwin. We will, however, be reporting short synopses of interesting evolution-related news when it happens to occur.

Welcome Eosinopteryx brevipenna to the gloriously fuzzy lineup of Chinese paravians!

Eosinopteryx is a new feathered dinosaur from the paleo treasure trove that is Liaoning Province, China. This tiny little fellow, sizing in at only around 30 cm long, was described as being a basal troodontid by the authors: it is extremely similar, skeletally, to Anchiornis, the fuzzy-footed woodpecker mimic famous for being the first dinosaur for whom a complete color study was performed. The fossil of Eosinopteryx, however, clearly lacks a feature for which Anchiornis is unique: it has no long feathers on the feet or ankles, and no tail feathers to speak of either.

It also appears to have rather blunt and short claws on the feet, whereas Anchiornis - tentatively assigned as a sister taxon to Eosinopteryx - had long and curved claws which appear to be the appropriate kind for climbing. Eosinopteryx is therefore considered to be a ground-running animal without the obvious adaptations for arboreality common to its brethren.

This has already been vehemently disputed in the paleo blogosphere, though. It's difficult to discount the possibility that legwings and tail feathers simply didn't preserve in the fossil, and that the animal would have had them in life. It has also been proposed that perhaps Eosinopteryx was a juvenile (most notably a juvenile Anchiornis), and the lack of defined legwings and retrices were a result of its youth and would have come in at adulthood. This is supported by its unusually large head and short snout, features commonly associated with juvenility in birds. However, the authors state that the animal is not a juvenile, as evidenced by closed sutures on the vertebrae.

In any case, the uncertain phylogenetic position of this pretty little paravian, as well as the general sentiment of "not convinced" by the paleontological community, leaves the importance of Eosinopteryx somewhat up in the air - a place the animal itself may or may not have been occupying.

It sure is cute, though.
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:iconghostinthepines:
GhostInThePines Featured By Owner Feb 1, 2013  Hobbyist Photographer
If it's a juvenile lacking both "legwings" and tail feathers... I'm kind of thinking it lacked the "legwings" to begin with, especially if it was a runner. Not some sort of deformity.

About the tail, however... it's not uncommon for birds to pluck each other in over-crowded conditions. It's more common in captive birds, but as a juvenile, it seems quite feasible to me that this little fellow was forcefully driven away from a flock, particularly if it was a young male in an adult male's territory. Like with wild turkeys, quail, or pheasants.
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:icontherealmaestro:
TheRealMaestro Featured By Owner Jan 30, 2013
As we only have the one specimen and I'm a lumper [link], I'm led to believe Eosinopteryx is either a juvenile, poorly preserved, or deformed Anchiornis. Thoughts?
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:iconewilloughby:
EWilloughby Featured By Owner Jan 30, 2013  Professional General Artist
Knowing how incredibly diverse modern birds are, and how many birds with essentially identical skeletons are assigned separate species based on often vast plumage and behavioral differences... I'm less of a lumper than I used to be, I admit.

What I would REALLY like to see is a color study performed on this new fossil...
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:iconebolasparklebear:
EbolaSparkleBear Featured By Owner Jan 29, 2013
"Note: due to an apparent declining interest in our journal posts, we will no longer be doing a scheduled "featured monthly topic" at Domain-of-Darwin. We will, however, be reporting short synopses of interesting evolution-related news when it happens to occur. "

A lot of groups face the same problem. if it's not a group that's overflowing with teens who can sit on the net all night it's not getting a lot of action.

On topic:

"This has already been vehemently disputed in the paleo blogosphere, though. It's difficult to discount the possibility that legwings and tail feathers simply didn't preserve in the fossil, and that the animal would have had them in life."

How is it that people can just make up their own scenarios about a fossil and expect their unsupported notions be given serious consideration?

I think if you're going to be 'vehement' in your dissatisfaction at least you could have something substantial to say other than "it might not have preserved well".
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