Caudipteryx Was a Theropod
Dubbed “tail feather”, this Theropod dinosaur lived in the Aptian age of the Late Jurassic—early Cretaceous Period, 120—136 million years ago. Two species have been described; C. zoui (the type species discovered in 1998), and C. dongi (2000). Caudipteryx, pronounced caw-DIP-tuh-riks, is one of the earliest bird-like dinosaurs to have existed, and exhibits prehistoric and primitive feathering that probably developed to keep the species warm over time. This species lived during an age during which the habitable climate was changing fairly drastically, although over a long period of time.
|Prehistoric Era||Early Cretaceous|
|Weight||20 lbs (9 kg)|
|Length||3 feet (.9 meters)|
|Height||2 feet (.61 meters)|
|Maximum Speed||30 mph|
What Did Caudipteryx Look Like?
About the size of a turkey and resembling a peacock, Caudipteryx sported the primitive feathers of bird-like creatures that could not in fact fly. The beak and feet of Caudipteryx were also bird-like, and in movement this species probably resembled Velociraptor. The forelimbs of Caudipteryx were covered in symmetrical and pennaceous (contour) feathers that were 6—8 inches (15—20 centimeters) long and had vanes and barbs. Pennaceous feather are the most specialized of all feathers. They help form the outline of the bird, offering the streamlined and aerodynamic form necessary for flight. They are the range of delicate, soft and small feathers to the more rigid flight feathers. Pennaceous feathers cover the outer body, wings and tail.
Caudipteryx also had feathers on its short tail. Due to the symmetrical feathering and relatively short arms, it is likely that this feathered creature did not fly. As a comparison, scientists look at modern-day flightless birds which have symmetrical feathers and modern flying birds which have asymmetrical feathers. It is believed that Caudipteryx feathers were beneficial to the prehistoric creature in retention of its own body heat. The body of Caudipteryx was covered in a down-type feather.
What Did Caudipteryx Eat?
Caudipteryx is thought to have been an omnivore. Its teeth were long, sharp and had deep bulbous roots that would have anchored in well for eating meat, and gastroliths are preserved in some specimens of Caudipteryx. This would indicate at least some kind of a plant-life diet. As in some herbivorous dinosaurs and modern birds, these gastroliths remain in the position where the animals’ gizzards would have been.
How Did Caudipteryx Move?
The creature was probably a swift runner, considering its long legs and light body. We know that Caudipteryx did not fly but ran on two long legs. The first known dinosaurs to have sported feathers existed during the late Jurassic Period (Archaeopteryx and Epidendrosaurus). However, as time moved on, the first downy feathers eventually became better suited for flight through development of stiffer and more intricately designed feathering. Caudipteryx falls in about the middle of this progression.
Where Did Caudipteryx Live?
Caudipteryx lived from the Late Jurassic to Early Cretaceous Periods, primarily centered in the Aptian age. Although, remains of Caudipteryx are only recently recovered, and the Aptian age layer consists of many different formations which scientists hope will turn up more evidence of Caudipteryx and its relatives. In addition to the Yixian Formation where Caudipteryx is found, the Aptian age consists of the Antlers Formation, the Cedar Mountain Formation, Cloverly Formation, Jiufotang, Little Atherfield and several other marked formations. Rocks of the Aptian age underlie those of the Albian age and overlie those rocks of the Barremian Stage.
The Discovery of Caudipteryx
There have been two specimens of the fossil Caudipteryx found in Asia, in the sediment of an ancient lake bed in China’s Liaoning Province (Yixian Formation of the Sihetun area, northeastern China). These were identified by Philip Currie, and were the first discovered.
The Significance of Caudipteryx
Caudipteryx could be the closest known ancestor to birds. With Caudipteryx, the nature of prehistoric dinosaur discovery changed, due to its feather-type exhibition and geological placement in time. Caudipteryx falls just in line with the progression of feather development in prehistoric animals. Following, find the feathered discoveries in order of primitive proto-feathers to the more modern prehistoric specimen, which could fly.
Archaeopteryx—the oldest known bird had asymmetrical feathers – it could probably fly short distances.
Sinosauropteryx—covered with proto-feathers and with short arms.
Protarchaeopteryx—long, symmetrical feathers on arms and tail, but it probably could not fly.
Caudipteryx—a small, very fast runner covered with primitive (symmetrical and therefore flightless) feathers.
Unenlagia—a much larger ground-dwelling Theropod. It had flexible arm movement (up and down, like that of a bird)
Velociraptor—a larger, ground-dwelling carnivore from Mongolia) with a swiveling wrist bone (this type of joint is also found in birds and is necessary for flight)
Eoalulavis— the earliest bird that had good maneuverability while flying, even at low speeds (this extra flight control is obtained from a tuft of feathers on the thumb called the alula – it also helps in takeoffs and landings).
So you see, Caudipteryx played a very important role in the evolution of feathered dinosaur species.