A bird with a T. rex head may be able to reveal how dinosaurs evolved into mammals

A bird with a T. rex head may be able to reveal how dinosaurs evolved into mammals ...

Researchers say a 120-million-year-old fossil bird discovered in China might reveal more insight into how landbound dinosaurs evolved into today's flying birds.

Cratonavis had a skull that was almost identical (albeit smaller) to that of Tyrannosaurus rex, according to paleontologist Li Zhiheng of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing and colleagues (SN: 5/2/18).

According to Luis Chiappe, the new discovery underscores the importance of this primitive group of birds at the base of the bird tree.

Cratonavis also had an unusually long scapula and hallux, or backward-facing toe, according to the researchers. The researchers claim that the bird's otherwise underwhelming flight mechanisms might have been compensated for by the enlarged shoulder blades. It also fits into the pattern of shrinking metatarsals seen today's birds of prey.

Cratonavis may have been too big a task to fill those shoes, as Chiappe believes the dino-headed bird would have most likely been a modest hunter, killing insects, grasshoppers, and even a lizard.

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