Exceptionally well preserved dinosaur fossils uncovered in north-eastern China display the earliest known dinosaur with feathers. The creatures are all more than 150 million years old. The new finds are indisputably older than Archaeopteryx, the “oldest bird “recognised by science. Professor Xu Xing and colleagues tell the journal Nature that this represents the final proof that dinosaurs were ancestral to birds. The theory that birds evolved from dinosaurs has always been troubled by the absence of feathers more ancient than those on the famous Archaeopteryx.
This has given critics room to question the idea. But the new dinosaur fossils, which come from two separate locations, are in most cases about 10 million years older than the primitive Archaeopteryx discovered in the late 19th Century. One of the new dinosaur specimens, named Anchiornis huxleyi, is spectacular in its preservation. It has extensive plumage covering its arms and tail, and also its feet – a “four-winged” arrangement, says Professor Xu from the Chinese Academy of Science in Beijing.