An especially well-preserved specimen of Archaeopteryx shows the first known bird had feet like a dinosaur - made not for perching but for running on the ground, scientists said on Thursday.
The first toe on the &to=http://english.pravda.ru/columnists/2003/01/23/42454.html' target=_blank>fossil turns inward, similar to a human thumb and most like the hunting dinosaurs known as deinonychosaurs -- notably the Velociraptor with its long claw for disemboweling prey.
Gerald Mayr of the Forschungsinstitut Senckenberg in Frankfurt, Germany, and colleagues at the Wyoming Dinosaur Center in Thermopolis, say their findings strengthen theories that birds descended directly from dinosaurs.
The 150 million-year-old fossil, found in Germany's Bavaria region, suggests the magpie-sized creature could hyperextend its second toe in a dinosaur-like way, the researchers report in Friday's issue of the journal Science.
"By all measures, it is a treasure," Peter Dodson of the University of Pennsylvania was quoted by Science as saying.
The feathered fossils were long believed to be representative of the first birds and this one now links Archaeopteryx to &to=http://english.pravda.ru/science/19/94/377/14920_dinosaur.html' target=_blank>dinosaurs, reports Reuters.
The fossil described by Dr Mayr and his colleagues grew to the size of a magpie and probably lived most of its life on the ground rather than in trees. They say Archaeopteryx had dinosaur-like feet not designed for perching like those of modern birds, with forward and backward-pointing toes. The new fossil, found in the limestone deposits of Bavaria where other specimens have been excavated, also had a head similar to that of a theropod dinosaur with toothed jaws.