Unique Chinese Fossils Help Rewrite Book of Life
- NHNE News List
Current Members: 736
Subscribe/unsubscribe/archive info at the bottom of this message.
Thanks to Garth Godsman.
UNIQUE CHINESE FOSSILS HELP REWRITE BOOK OF LIFE
Chinese People Daily
October 21, 2002
"Dinosaurs are not extinct, and their descendants are living in the same
world as humans." Sounds like an advertisement for a science fiction story.
The words, printed on the name card of a Chinese paleontologist, reflect the
landmark findings and the latest research. Chinese scientists are making a
big impact on world paleontological research as they have discovered the
most extraordinary fossils over the past decade.
"China has complex tectonic plates and abundant fossils, and the discovery
of many rare fossils in recent years has attracted the attention of the
international scientific community," said Yang Zunyi, a 94-year-old
academician from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the top scientific
research body in the country.
Outstanding Paleontological Fossils
Guizhou, one of China's economically backward provinces, stands out at the
beginning of the 21st century because of its numerous unique paleontological
discoveries. It has become known worldwide as the "Kingdom of fossils (or of
The earliest known animal embryo fossil, roughly 670 million years old, was
found beautifully preserved in phosphorite rock in southern Guizhou. Another
220 million years old fossil site in the province yielded a world treasure
of rich and finely preserved specimens of encrinite and aquicolous reptiles.
"Paleontologists are flocking to Guizhou from all over the world. They feel
they are fortunate to be able to see such unique fossils and to have chance
to further their research," Dr. Wang Shangyan, general engineer of the
geological and mineral survey bureau of the province, says.
The complex geology and diverse climate here has helped the survival of the
world's largest forest of spindle tree ferns throughout the same latitudes
and the dinosaur's favorite food in the Mesozoic era. In local museums,
various types of dinosaur fossils are on display and speak of the evolution
Outside the Guizhou Province, new stunning fossil discoveries have been made
throughout the country over the past few years. These discoveries all
contributed to what paleontologists worldwide call the "rewriting of the
evolutionary book of life".
Since the 1990s many feathered dinosaurs' fossils have been found in western
Liaoning Province, northeast China. Subsequent research linked the
feather-like skins of the fossils to the plumage of birds. The feathered
fossil specimen was later named Sinosauropteryx.
The link between dinosaurs and birds was first proposed by British scientist
Dr. Thomas Henry Huxley in the mid-1800s. Paleontologists split into the two
groups who continued sometimes acrimonious debates over avian origins and
whether or not there was a link with dinosaurs.
The fossilized Sinosauropteryx is believed to be the dinosaur-bird link. The
discovery answered the question about the appearance of "protofeathers" and
so gave convincing evidence of the evolution of birds from small theropods,
carnivorous bipedal dinosaurs with small forelimbs.
An even more startling find was made on July 22, 2002, in Liaoning's Yixian
County, where Chinese scientists discovered the fossil of what was described
as the Shenzhouraptor Sinensis, a theropod dinosaur that had been able to
The discovery, the only parallel to Archaeopteryx, the most primitive
avialae bird found in Germany in 1860, gave key proof to the theory of the
evolution of birds from dinosaurs.
The dove-sized Cretaceous Shenzhouraptor Sinensis, was only the second such
primitive bird-type creature ever found in the world. It was at the same
evolutionary stage as the Archaeopteryx, according to Dr. Ji Qiang, the
fossil finder who worked with the Institute of Geology of the Chinese
Academy of Geological Sciences.
Judging from its shoulder girdle, beak, breastbone, limbs and feathers,
avian paleontologists were certain that the new avialae bird was really
capable of flight and is the missing link between theropod dinosaurs and
Critics have long said the research into the evolution of birds from
dinosaurs has lacked "the vital intermediary link." The discovery of the
Shenzhouraptor Sinensis has filled the gap. This discovery not only put an
end to the long-standing debates but unfolded a new landscape for further
research," said Zhang Hongtao,deputy head of the China Geological Survey.
Vertebrates and Plants
Yunnan Province, in south China, is another paleontological hotspot. The
fossils of fish-like creatures that could be the earliest known vertebrates
were found in 1999 on the outskirts of Kunming, capital of Yunnan in
southwest China. The creature, older than the previously found Wenchang Fish
thought of the ancestor of vertebrates, was named the Haikouichtyus.
Being the world's oldest fish aged more than half a billion years, the
Haikouichtyus has extended by a startling 50 million years the time when key
features of vertebrates appeared. This finding was hailed by an American
scholar as "an extraordinary achievement by humans in the remodeling the
history of life on earth."
Back in western Liaoning Province, Chinese botanists found the fossils of
the most primitive species of angiosperm, a plant whose ovules are enclosed
in an ovary, according to the official website of the China Geological
Survey. A new family based on the finds has been set up within the
For a century, debate continued about the time and place of the origin of
angiosperm. The discovery of the new genus has assured a solution to the
The respected US Journal Science dedicated nine pages of stories and
graphics in its first issue last year to give credit to China's outstanding
research into paleontological fossils in recent years.
"Within lees than a decade, there have been found in China a staggering
array of fossils of great significance to key evolutionary phases of life,
and the country's paleontological research has jumped from being
unremarkable to being the mainstay internationally," said Henry Gee, senior
biology editor of the prestigious Nature journal based in Britain.
"I know many unique fossil specimens are still being researched, and I
believe more spectacular findings will surface in near future in China," Ma
Fucheng, deputy director of China's National Committee for Natural Sciences
NHNE News List:
To subscribe, send a message to:
To unsubscribe, send a message to:
To review current posts:
Published by NewHeavenNewEarth (NHNE)
NHNE Website: http://www.nhne.com/
Phone: (928) 282-6120
Fax: (815) 346-1492
Appreciate what we are doing?
You can say so with a tax-deductible donation:
P.O. Box 2242
Sedona, AZ 86339