A bizarre, 70-million-year-old fossil skull discovered in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia shows an advanced stage in the evolutionary transition of dinosaurs into birds, researchers report today in the journal Nature. The find by a team from the American Museum of Natural History and George Washington University, coupled with a finding reported Wednesday, provides strong new evidence that dinosaurs did evolve from birds.
The bizarre creature, about the size of a turkey, walked on two legs, had a long tail and neck and, unlike most primitive birds, had stubby forearms that ended in a single blunt claw. The key bird-like trait was the creature's ability to move its snout up and down independently of its head, enabling it to swallow large food items. This trait, called prokinesis, has been found only in birds.