|Museum Unveils Bird-Like Dinosaur|
|By TERRY SPENCER |
Associated Press Writer
DANIA BEACH, Fla. (AP) MARCH 18, 05:31 EST — Researchers have unveiled what may be the most convincing evolutionary link yet between dinosaurs and birds: a 75 million-year-old creature with a roadrunner's body, arms that resembled clawed wings and hair-like feathers.
They call it bambiraptor feinbergi.
The first recovered skeleton of the species was shown Thursday by the Florida Institute of Paleontology. It is not clear whether the creature could fly, but experts said that anatomically it is the most bird-like dinosaur yet discovered. They said the finding advances the increasingly popular theory that birds evolved from dinosaurs.
Bambiraptor's skeleton was discovered in 1994 by 14-year-old Wes Linster, who was hunting for fossils near Glacier National Park in northern Montana.
More than 95 percent of the warm-blooded carnivore's bones were recovered. Scientists are usually ecstatic to recover 30 percent of a dinosaur's skeleton.
"This species is truly a dinosaur Rosetta stone,'' said Martin Shugar, the institute's director, referring to the tablet found 200 years ago that helped archaeologists decipher Egyptian hieroglyphics.
The skeleton will be exhibited at the Graves Museum of Archaeology & Natural History, where the institute is based. Shugar persuaded Michael Feinberg, a Hollywood, Fla., investor and philanthropist, to buy the specimen for an undisclosed price and lend it to the museum.
Linster christened the specimen bambiraptor because it's small like Bambi. The feinbergi was added later to honor Feinberg.
John Ostrum, a Yale University professor and one of the world's leading paleontologists, examined the skeleton and likened it to the Mona Lisa. "I have never seen any specimen as complete as that and I have collected all over the world,'' he said.
Ostrum said bambiraptor has several traits usually found in birds, such as a wishbone instead of a full breastbone and avian-like arm bones.
About 3 feet long and weighing 7 pounds, bambiraptor lived in a sparsely forested area in what is now Montana at a time when the Rocky Mountains were just beginning to rise, said David A. Burnham, a University of Kansas paleontologist who assembled the skeleton.
It would have preyed on small mammals and reptiles, using its teeth, sharp talons and whip-like 18-inch tail to subdue its prey, said Burnham and Kraig Dertsler, a University of New Orleans professor who helped study it.
It was fast, had a keen sense of smell and the structure of its arms and its feathers may have allowed it to fly, although more study must be done before that can be concluded, Burnham and Dertsler said.