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New evidence on how birds took to the air

From BBC - October 9, 2017

New fossil evidence has pushed back a key step in the evolution of bird flight by millions of years.

Skeletal changes that helped birds take to the air happened 120 million years ago, during the hey day of dinosaurs, according to a specimen from China.

Features such as fused bones were thought to be present only in relatively advanced birds, living just before the dinosaurs went extinct.

A strong, rigid skeleton is part of the blueprint of modern birds.

The bird, Pterygornis dapingfangensi, lived in north-eastern China during the Early Cretaceous.

It is only the second of its kind to be discovered and is exquisitely preserved.

The find ''pushed back the date for these birds' features by over 40 million years,'' said co-researcher, Min Wang from the Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing.

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