Ancient bird had venomous fangs, researchers report

Wichita EagleDecember 21, 2009 

The world's first-known venom-fanged bird has been discovered in ancient fossils dug up in northeast China, scientists at the University of Kansas announced Monday.

Sinornithosaurus (Chinese-bird-lizard), was a turkey-sized creature that had fierce-looking long and grooved and venomous fangs. It also probably had flight feathers on the back legs that made it a four-winged gliding predator.

This is the first report of venom in the lineage that leads to modern birds, scientists say.

Larry Martin, a KU scientist who helped discover and describe it, says the creature, as possibly the world's first-known venomous bird, is going to shake up all the known science about bird history.

While he and the other three scientists involved are careful to say in their scientific paper that Sino is a "bird-like creature," and a "raptor closely related to birds," Martin goes farther. "I have a habit of deciding that if it looks like a bird and quacks like a bird, it's a bird," Martin said. "This is a bird."

The fangs made this creature look almost like a saber-tooth tiger, he said.

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