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February 2001

Release Date: February 14, 2001

Fossil Feathers from Dinosaur Period to be Discussed at ASU

"The Oldest Feathers May Not Be on a Bird" will be the topic of a lecture by Dr. Larry D. Martin, an internationally recognized paleontologist from the University of Kansas, during a Friday afternoon seminar at Angelo State University.

Martin, who has been in the middle of the scientific argument over whether birds descended from dinosaurs, will speak at l:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 16, in Room 100 of the Cavness Science Building. The talk is open free to the public and is of special interest to those with some scientific background.

The event is sponsored by the ASU Department of Biology and College of Sciences.

Most recently, Dr. Martin and his colleagues have reported in the journal Science that a little gliding reptile that is nearly as old as the oldest dinosaurs had feathers. This tiny, gliding lizard-like reptile, named Longisquama ("long scale"), is an archosaur reptile from Late Triassic times some 200 million years ago. Archosaurs are a reptile group that includes crocodiles, birds, dinosaurs, and many other extinct reptiles.

Longisquama is not a bird, but if its skin appendages have been interpreted correctly as feathers, then Longisquama is likely a cousin to birds. This inference implies that the origin of birds is about as old as dinosaurs and, consequently, that meat-eating dinosaur relatives of Velociraptor could not have given rise to birds.

The oldest known, undisputed fossil feathers are from Archaeopteryx, a bird from Late Jurassic lagoon deposits of Germany, about 140 million years ago. Martin has published a number of papers on Archaeopteryx, on the Cretaceous toothed birds of Kansas and on the exciting new bird finds from China.

Martin has been featured on such television science programs as PaleoWorld and NOVA, as well as in National Geographic Magazine and the Wall Street Journal. In December he was featured on Discovery Channel's program Sabre Tooth. He is not only a world's expert on the evolution of saber tooth cats, but also on birds that lived during dinosaur times, fossil beavers and paleopathology, the fossil record of disease. He has also published over 200 papers in the scientific literature.

For more information, contact the ASU Biology Department at 942-2189.

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