New discovery unearthed in rock formations in north-eastern China confirms birds evolved from dinosaurs, scientists claim
Because the fossils, unearthed in north-eastern China, are older than previous discoveries of similar creatures, the find adds weight to the theory that birds descended from predatory dinosaurs.
The fossils all have feathers or feather-like structures. The clearest and most striking of the specimens can be seen to have four wings, extensive plumage and profusely feathered feet.
One of the scientists who made the discovery, Xu Xing, will reveal details of his find in Bristol at the annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Palaeontology.
"These exceptional fossils provide us with evidence that has been missing until now," Xu said. "Now it all fits neatly into place and we have tied up some of the loose ends."
The finds date back to between 151m and 164m years ago, which suggest they are older than archaeopteryx, previously thought to be the oldest undisputed bird.
Xu, who is based in Beijing, said: "The fossils provide confirmation that the bird-dinosaur hypothesis is correct, and supports the idea that birds descended from theropod dinosaurs (the group of predatory dinosaurs that includes allosaurus and velociraptor)."