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Anatomy of Sinosauropteryx prima from Liaoning, northeastern China

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A spectacular pair of Sinosauropteryx skeletons from Jurassic–Cretaceous strata of Liaoning in northeastern China attracted worldwide notoriety in 1996 as the first dinosaurs covered with feather-like structures. Sinosauropteryx prima is important not only because of its integument, but also because it is a basal coelurosaur and represents an important stage in theropod evolution that is poorly understood. Coelurosauria, which includes (but is not limited to) dromaeosaurids, ornithomimosaurs, oviraptorosaurs, troodontids, and tyrannosaurids, formed the most important radiation of Cretaceous carnivorous dinosaurs in the Northern Hemisphere. It also includes Aves. Sinosauropteryx prima has a number of characters that were poorly preserved in known specimens of the closely related Compsognathus longipes from Europe. These include the longest tail known for any theropod and a three-fingered hand dominated by the first digit, which is longer and thicker than either of the bones of the forearm. Both specimens have a thick coat of feather-like structures, which seem to be simple branching structures. The claim that one skeleton of Sinosauropteryx has preserved the shape of the liver is unsupportable, if only because the fossil had collapsed into a single plane, which would have distorted any soft, internal organs.

Deux impressionnants squelettes de Sinosauropteryx, provenant des strates du Jurassique–Crétacé à Liaoning dans le nord-est de la Chine, attirèrent une notoriété mondiale en 1996 en tant que les premiers dinosaures recouverts de structures ressemblant à des plumes. Sinosauropteryx prima est significatif non seulement en raison de son tégument, mais aussi parce qu'il s'agit d'un cœlurosaure de base et qu'il représente une étape importante dans l'évolution mal comprise des Thérapodes. Cœlurosauria, qui comprend (sans s'y limiter) les dromæosauridés, les ornithomimosaures, les oviraptorosaures, les troodontidés et les tyrannosauridés, formait le plus important rayonnement de dinosaures carnivores du Crétacé dans l'hémisphère Nord. On y inclut aussi Aves. Sinosauropteryx prima présente certains caractères qui ont été mal préservés dans les spécimens connus de son proche parent européen Compsognathus longipes. Ces caractères comprennent la plus longue queue connue pour tout Théropode et une main à trois doigts dominée par le premier doigt, qui est plus long et plus épais que l'un ou l'autre des os de l'avant-bras. Les deux spécimens ont un épais manteau de structures de type plumes, lesquelles semblent être de simples structures de branchements. L'allégation qu'un squelette de Sinosauropteryx aurait préservé la forme du foie n'est pas justifiable, si ce n'est pour la simple raison que le fossile s'était effondré dans un seul plan, ce qui aurait déformé tout organe interne mou.[Traduit par la Rédaction]

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2001

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