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Temporal range: Early Cretaceous, 124.6 Ma
Protarchaeopteryx-Geological Museum of China.jpg
Holotype, Geological Museum of China
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Clade: Dinosauria
Clade: Saurischia
Clade: Theropoda
Clade: Oviraptorosauria
Genus: Protarchaeopteryx
Ji & Ji, 1997
P. robusta
Binomial name
Protarchaeopteryx robusta
Ji & Ji, 1997

Protarchaeopteryx (meaning "before Archaeopteryx" although it is from the Cretaceous and Archaeopteryx is from the Jurassic) is a genus of turkey-sized feathered theropod dinosaur from China.[1] Known from the Jianshangou bed of the Yixian Formation, it lived during the early Aptian age of the Early Cretaceous, approximately 124.6 million years ago.[2] It was probably a herbivore or omnivore, although its hands were very similar to those of small carnivorous dinosaurs. It appears to be one of the most basal members of the Oviraptorosauria, closely related to Incisivosaurus,[3][4] or a taxon slightly less closely related to birds than oviraptorosaurs were.[5][6]


Protarchaeopteryx size, compared to a human
Skeletal reconstruction of known material

The holotype and only known specimen of Protarchaeopteryx is NGMC 2125, a partial skeleton.[7]

Protarchaeopteryx had long legs, and could have been a quick runner. It had well-developed, vaned feathers extended from a relatively short tail; the hands were long and slender, and had three fingers with sharp, curved claws. Its bones were hollow and bird-like, and it possessed a wishbone.[8] At around 1 metre (3.3 ft) in length, it would have been larger than Archaeopteryx.[8] In 2016, Gregory S. Paul gave a lower estimate of 0.7 metres (2.3 ft) in length and 1.6 kilograms (3.5 lb) in body mass.[9] Protarchaeopteryx also had symmetrical feathers on its tail. Since modern birds that have symmetrical feathers are flightless, and the skeletal structure of Protarchaeopteryx would not support flapping flight, it is assumed that it was flightless as well.[10] It has been suggested that it could have had an arboreal lifestyle, jumping from tree limbs and using its forelimbs for a form of parachuting.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ji, Q., and Ji, S. (1997). "Protarchaeopterygid bird (Protarchaeopteryx gen. nov.) – fossil remains of archaeopterygids from China." Chinese Geology, 238: 38–41.
  2. ^ Zhou, Z. (2006). "Evolutionary radiation of the Jehol Biota: chronological and ecological perspectives." Geological Journal, 41: 377–393.
  3. ^ Paul G.S. (2010), The Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs, Princeton University Press, pp. 146–145
  4. ^ Cau, Andrea (2020-02-25). "The body plan of Halszkaraptor escuilliei (Dinosauria, Theropoda) is not a transitional form along the evolution of dromaeosaurid hypercarnivory". PeerJ. 8: e8672. doi:10.7717/peerj.8672. ISSN 2167-8359. PMC 7047864. PMID 32140312.
  5. ^ Wang, Min; O’Connor, Jingmai K.; Xu, Xing; Zhou, Zhonghe (May 2019). "A new Jurassic scansoriopterygid and the loss of membranous wings in theropod dinosaurs". Nature. 569 (7755): 256–259. Bibcode:2019Natur.569..256W. doi:10.1038/s41586-019-1137-z. ISSN 1476-4687. PMID 31068719. S2CID 148571099.
  6. ^ Hartman, Scott; Mortimer, Mickey; Wahl, William R.; Lomax, Dean R.; Lippincott, Jessica; Lovelace, David M. (2019-07-10). "A new paravian dinosaur from the Late Jurassic of North America supports a late acquisition of avian flight". PeerJ. 7: e7247. doi:10.7717/peerj.7247. ISSN 2167-8359. PMC 6626525. PMID 31333906.
  7. ^ Qiang, Ji; Currie, Philip J.; Norell, Mark A.; Shu-An, Ji (June 1998). "Two feathered dinosaurs from northeastern China" (PDF). Nature. 393 (6687): 753–761. Bibcode:1998Natur.393..753Q. doi:10.1038/31635. ISSN 1476-4687. S2CID 205001388.
  8. ^ a b Palmer, D., ed. (1999). The Marshall Illustrated Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals. London: Marshall Editions. p. 107. ISBN 1-84028-152-9.
  9. ^ Paul, Gregory S. (2016). The Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs. Princeton University Press. p. 172. ISBN 978-1-78684-190-2. OCLC 985402380.
  10. ^ Ji, Q., and Ji, S. (1997). "A Chinese archaeopterygian, Protarchaeopteryx gen. nov." Geological Science and Technology (Di Zhi Ke Ji), 238: 38–41. Translated By Will Downs Bilby Research Center Northern Arizona University January, 2001
  11. ^ Currie, P.J. (2004), Feathered dragons: studies on the transition from dinosaurs to birds, Indiana University Press, p. 184, plate 16.

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