Archaeologists have unearthed the fossil of a "four-winged" dinosaur bird – indicating that feathered dinosaurs may have been able to fly before the evolution of birds.
The long tail feathers of Changyuraptor, from north-east China, would have provided the stability and speed control required for a safe landing.
At four feet long and weighing 90 pounds, the creature, which lived 125 million years ago, is the biggest dinosaur of its type yet discovered.
The well-preserved fossil shows that its body was cloaked by a full set of feathers and, in comparison with its body size, the foot-long tail feathers were unusually long.
The wingspan of Pelagornis sandersi dwarfs that of today's biggest flier, the royal albatross, whose span measures a "mere" 11.5 feet (3.5 meters). And it rivals that of the largest flying bird on record: Argentavis magnificens—a South American condor with a 23-foot (7-meter) wingspan that glided among the mountaintops of the Andes six million years ago.
"Pelagornis was certainly much lighter and a better 'flier'" than the vanished giant condor, says paleontologist Antoine Louchart of France's Institute of Functional Genomics in Lyon, who was not involved with the study.
Most geneticists agree that Native Americans are descended from Siberians who crossed into America 26,000 to 18,000 years ago via a land bridge over the Bering Strait. But while genetic analysis of modern Native Americans lends support to this idea, strong fossil evidence has been lacking.
Now a nearly complete skeleton of a prehistoric teenage girl, newly discovered in an underwater cave in the Yucatán Peninsula, establishes a clear link between the ancient and modern peoples, scientists say.