Life reconstruction of Jianianhualong tengi
The Middle-Upper Jurassic and Lower Cretaceous of western Liaoning and neighbouring areas have produced spectacular fossil remains of theropod dinosaurs, particularly of maniraptoran theropods, which are critical to our understanding of bird origins. Among them are many fossils of troodontids, which are considered as the closest relatives of birds either on their own or together with dromaeosaurids. Reported troodontid species include Sinovenator changii, Mei long and Sinusonasus magnodens from the early Aptian Yixian Formation (the middle section of the Jehol Group), Jinfengopteryx elegans from the Hauterivian Dabeigou/Dadianzi Formation (the low section of the Jehol Group), and Anchiornis huxleyi, Xiaotingia zhengi and Eosinopteryx brevipenna from the Oxfordian Tiaojishan Formation. Significantly, the discoveries of the latter four taxa provide direct evidence for the presence of feathers in troodontids, which shed new light on the early evolution of pennaceous feathers. However, several recent phylogenetic studies have questioned the troodontid affinities of these species, and thus feathers have yet to be found in an unquestionable troodontid taxon.
This new troodontid described is from the Yixian Formation of Baicai Gou, Yixian County, western Liaoning preserving large feathers along the forelimbs, hindlimbs and tail that have a distribution pattern similar to other basal paravians such as Microraptor, Anchiornis and Archaeopteryx. Its discovery is highly significant in reconstructing both the skeletal and integumentary evolution of troodontids, and the more inclusive paravians.
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