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a meat-eating dromaeosaurid theropod dinosaur from the Early Cretaceous of China.
Pronunciation: SIEN-or-nith-o-SOR-us
Meaning: Chinese bird lizard
Author/s: Xu (1999)
Synonyms: None known
First Discovery: Liaoning, China
Chart Position: 374

Sinornithosaurus millenii

Sinornithosaurus was discovered in the Jianshangou beds of the Yixian Formation; an area of China that regularly comes up trumps with tiny but beautifully preserved fossils. It was also the fifth bird-like dinosaur of 1999 to sport "protofeathers", but had two kinds; (1) down-like tufts on its head, neck and hind limbs, probably for insulation, and (2) quills on its forearms and tail, similar to those seen in modern flightless birds.

The identification of these structures as feathers immediately put creationists in a flap, and even some bird experts took umbrage, suggesting these "feathers" were merely misidentified hairs and that paleontologists were seeing what they wanted to see. "Feathers and flight evolved in tandem from the ground up", they said, "how can feathered dinosaurs be the ancestors of birds when the first birds are older than so-called feathered dinosaurs?" Regardless, these filaments vary in color across different regions of the body based on analysis of microscopic cell structures (melanosomes) in its fossilized fluffy bits, and they were attached to a body which seems to have attained the prerequisites for powered, flapping flight.

In 2009, Empu Gong claimed that Sinornithosaurus was venomous because of its long, fang-like, mid-jaw teeth with full length vertical grooves on the rear edge — a design found in confirmed venomous critters like Gila lizards — and after their "killing claws" use as claws for killing were recently called into question dromaeosaurids could do with an alternative strategy for taking down prey. However, grooves in one form or another are present in the teeth of many theropod dinosaurs and most paleontologists suspect that its long "fangs" are merely regular teeth that have popped out of their sockets.
Sinornithosaurus is derived from the Greek "Sinai" (Chinese), "ornis-" (bird) and "sauros" (lizard), named for its bird-like features, including feathers. Incidentally, Sinai is also a biblical peak where Moses, after teasing the Israelites with freedom, stood and commanded them not to cuss, lie, steal, kill, work Sundays, or have sex with their neighbour's wives (amongst other things). What happened to that?
The species epithet, millenii, was named for the impending year 2000 millennium.
The first remains of Sinornithosaurus were discovered at the Sihetun locality, Yixian Formation, Jehol Group, Liaoning Province, China. The holotype (IVPP V12811) is an almost complete skeleton, preserved on a slab with feather impressions. A specimen known as "Dave" (NGMC 91) was a particularly handsome chap, but when its encasing slab was split the bones shattered and only a silhouette was left! Initially identified as a juvenile specimen of Sinornithiosaurus millenni, "Dave" was tossed between Cryptovolans and Microraptor but its original classification is generally accepted.
Era: Mesozoic
Epoch: Early Cretaceous
Stage: Aptian
Age range: 125-120 mya
Est. max. length: 0.8 meters
Est. max. hip height: ?
Est. max. weight: 6 Kg
Diet: Carnivore
Other Species?
Sinornithosaurus haoiana ("Hao's Chinese bird-lizard") was described by Liu in 2004 based on a new specimen, D2140, from the Dakangpu Member of the Jiufotang Formation at Jonzhou. Unique features of its skull and hips are not as unique as first thought, and it may be synonymous with Sinornithosaurus millenii.
• Xu, Xing, Wang, Xiao-Lin, Wu, Xiao-Chun (1999) "A dromaeosaurid dinosaur with a filamentous integument from the Yixian Formation of China".
• E. Gong, L.D. Martin, D.E. Burnham and A.R. Falk (2009) "The birdlike raptor Sinornithosaurus was venomous".
• John Long & Peter Schouten (2009) "Feathered Dinosaurs: The Origin of Birds".
• F.A. Gianechini, F.L. Agnolín and M.D. Ezcurra (2010) "A reassessment of the purported venom delivery system of the bird-like raptor Sinornithosaurus".
• M.A. Norell and P. Makovicky (2004) Chapter 10: "Dromaeosauridae" in Weishampel, Dodson and Osmólska "The Dinosauria: Second Edition".
• F. Zhang, S.L. Kearns, P.J. Orr, M.J. Benton, Z. Zhou, D. Johnson, X. Xu, & X. Wang (2010) "Fossilized melanosomes and the colour of Cretaceous dinosaurs and birds".
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To cite this page:
Atkinson, L. "SINORNITHOSAURUS :: from DinoChecker's dinosaur archive".
›. Web access: 29th Mar 2017.