What we have right here is Deinonychus and this is an incredibly interesting dinosaur. One of the amazing things about this dinosaur is that it was quite an agile, fast, active predator. Another really interesting thing about this particular dinosaur is that it possibly had feathers to help it manoeuvre around, and it was possibly even warm blooded, so it’s a really interesting animal. It also helps suggest the link between dinosaurs and birds.
One of the things that really helped to change people thinking was a fossil known Archaeopteryx. This fossil was found in the 19th century in Germany and when it was first discovered they noticed that it had feathers on it, like a bird, but it also had teeth, more like a dinosaur, so it was a really weird combination of the two and this led some scientists at the time to think that actually birds came from dinosaurs. However, at this time, the idea of evolution by natural selection had only just arisen in the scientific community and wasn’t very well accepted. So this idea of birds evolving from dinosaurs was not well accepted at all.
Deinonychus was studied by a scientist in the 1960s known as Ostrom and he found that there was clear evidence that this animal had many features somewhat like a bird, yet it was still a dinosaur, and his research showed that the links between the two were incredibly strong. He also showed that this dinosaur wasn’t a big lumbering giant that was sluggish; it was actually quite a fast, active, predator, possibly quite intelligent.
Some of the recent discoveries of dinosaurs and fossil birds that have been incredibly important in the way that we understand the evolution of birds, and understand dinosaurs, have been some fossils that come out of a province in China called Liaoning. These fossils were found in the 1990s and they have really revolutionised the way that we think about dinosaurs and feathers and birds.
We now know that with so much evidence from China, from Deinonychus, that we had dinosaurs that were covered in feathers, and also that the link between dinosaurs and birds is very clear.