The long-time group of birds, called Archaeopteryx, are not considered in the avian family but rather more related to the Deinonychosaurs, or Dinosaur family, according to a study written by paleontologist Dr. Xing Xu and his researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing.
Xu from Linyi University, a Chinese palaeontologist, who led the study that found one so-called fascinating dinosaur after another, identified a new species called Xiaotingia that he says threatens to oust Archaeopteryx from its position. Archaeopteryx, the legendary winged creature long known as the oldest and most primitive bird on Earth, may not have been a bird at all, Chinese scientists reveal.
Chinese scientists provided new analysis, proposing that the oldest bird in recorded history, the Archaeopteryx may be changing its family tree identity to be more like dinosaurs. The Archaeopteryx is recorded as a 150 million-year-old creature who possessed numerous bird like features. It has long stood as a foundation in scientist research about the origins of birds and its connection with theropods.
To the general public, wings and flight are the most widely-known characteristics of birds. However, wings and flight alone don't define birds and not everything that has wings and flies is a bird. For example, bats are mammals and pterosaurs are reptiles.
Paul Barrett, a dinosaur researcher at the Natural History Museum in London, told UK newspaper The Guardian, that, "The overall picture of birds being descended from meat-eating dinosaurs is now very firmly established."
He added, "This is an argument over a relatively small rearrangement of some of the twigs on the evolutionary tree close to the origin of birds. It doesn't affect much of our big picture view of how birds came from dinosaurs, but some of the minutiae: the small changes that are important to the biology of the animals."
Xu and his team pointed out that the structure of archaeopteryx's skull, pelvis, toes, and legs suggests it's better classified as a deinonychosaur, or a reptile, rather than a bird, reported LA Times. Another feature of the archaeopteryx that supports this re-classification is a large hole in front of the eye, which was reported by BBC.