Caudipteryx

Name:

Caudipteryx (Greek for "tail feather"); pronounced cow-DIP-ter-ix

Habitat:

Lakesides and riverbeds of Asia

Historical Period:

Early Cretaceous (120-130 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About three feet long and 20 pounds

Diet:

Plants

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Primitive feathers; birdlike beak and feet

 

About Caudipteryx

If any single creature has conclusively settled the debate about the relationship between birds and dinosaurs, it's Caudipteryx.

The fossils of this turkey-sized dinosaur reveal startlingly birdlike characteristics, including feathers, a short, beaked head, and distinctly avian feet. For all its resemblance to birds, though, paleontologists agree that Caudipteryx was unable to fly--making it an intermediate species between land-bound dinosaurs and flying birds.

However, not all scientists think that Caudipteryx proves that birds descended from dinosaurs. One school of thought maintains that this creature evolved from a species of bird that gradually lost the ability to fly (the same way penguins gradually evolved from flying ancestors). As with all dinosaurs reconstructed from fossils, it's impossible to know (at least based on the evidence we now have) exactly where Caudipteryx stood on the dinosaur/bird spectrum.