Research Matters

Research Matters

Sinornithosaurus


A group of KU researchers working with Chinese colleagues have discovered a venom-delivery system in a birdlike raptor that thrived some 128 million years ago in China.

Aired January 17, 2010


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Transcript

It's the first report of venom in the lineage that leads to modern birds. From the University of Kansas, this is Research Matters. I'm Brendan Lynch.

A group of KU researchers working with Chinese colleagues have discovered a venom-delivery system in Sinornithosaurus, a birdlike raptor that thrived some 128 million years ago in China. Professor Larry Marin is curator of vertebrate paleontology at the KU Natural History Museum and Biodiversity Institute.

Martin: Sinornithosaurus is the first animal that we've found amongst the ruling reptiles - this is the group that includes dinosaurs and birds - it's the first of these that we've seen relatively clear evidence that it actually was venomous.

The findings of venom were established by Enpu Gong, of the geology department at Northeastern University in Shenyang, China, and researchers Martin, David Burnham and Amanda Falk at KU.

Martin: They had big grooves on the outside of the teeth and there was a funny canal on the above the tooth row that connected with a pocket on the side of the face, and these are similar structures that we see in some lizards and also in rear-fanged snakes that are related to having a poison system. And all of a sudden it occurs to us that Sinornithosaurus was actually a venomous bird.

Martin says the findings are among the most significant in his 40-year career as a paleontologist, and could change the understanding of the evolution of modern birds and reptiles.

Martin: What it means is that venom is likely to be very primitive among perhaps all the diapsid reptiles. We now know that the lizards and the snakes, probably all of them, have or have had the capacity to deliver venom, and it now looks like this capacity may have been at the very base, at the common ancestor of lizard and snakes and archosaurs - dinosaurs and birds.

For more about Sinornithosaurus, log onto Research Matters dot K-U dot E-D-U. For the University of Kansas, I'm Brendan Lynch.

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Venomous prehistoric 'raptor' discovered by research team from KU and China

A group of University of Kansas researchers working with Chinese colleagues have discovered a venomous, birdlike raptor that thrived some 128 million years ago in China. This is the first report of venom in the lineage that leads to modern birds.

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