The editor of “Prehistoric Times” magazine sent Everything Dinosaur a preview of the front cover of the next edition (issue 143). The stunning illustration is by Jaime Chirinos, a celebrated palaeoartist who has provided artwork for numerous media releases associated with scientific papers.
The small, feathered animal attempting to catch an insect on the cover of the magazine is the controversial Auriornis (A. xui). This theropod measured around fifty centimetres in length and it was formally named and scientifically described in 2013 (Godefroit et al).
The fossil material was acquired from a local dealer who claimed that the specimen came from exposures of the Tiaojishan Formation. This geological formation has been dated to the Late Jurassic (Oxfordian faunal stage) and it was proposed that Auriornis lived approximately 160 million years ago. This would make Auriornis one of the earliest avialans known to science, pre-dating the famous Archaeopteryx by around 10 million years.
To read a blog post from 2013 about Auriornis: New Contender for First Bird.
Disputed Fossil Date
Unfortunately, the provenance of the fossil material is difficult to prove. It has been suggested that this fossil is much younger than previously thought. The holotype may have come from exposures of the Yixian Formation which would suggest that this little hunter lived in the Early Cretaceous around 130 to 112 million years ago.
Perhaps issue 143 of “Prehistoric Times” magazine or a future edition will examine in detail the evidence relating to the dating of the Auriornis fossil material.
We do know that the next edition of this popular quarterly magazine will include an in-depth interview with Steve Brusatte. Following on from Steve’s highly acclaimed book “The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs”, he has produced a follow-up looking at the success of the Mammalia. The new book is entitled “The Rise and Reign of the Mammals” and in the latest edition of the magazine Steve talks about what inspired him to produce this new book and his work as a vertebrate palaeontologist.
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