Above: New specimen of Anchiornis and skeletal showing feather proportions, from Hu et al. 2009. Click to embiggen.
If you've been carefully combing Dave Hone's blog for the last nine months or so (and who hasn't been?), you'll know that the initial reports on headless fossil of an interestingly bird-like supposed avialan named Anchiornis were just a warning shot. Dave reported in December of last year that protobird fans could look forward to several more complete specimens that had been recovered and not yet described. Well, it looks like the first of these is pending: J. Brougham over at Wikipedia has published a few details and a full cite from the upcoming October 1 issue of Nature, which contains the description of a nearly complete specimen preserving such cool details as a complete skull, Microraptor-style hind wings and head crest, and a phylogenetic anlysis that finds Anchiornis is in fact a basal, mid-late Jurassic troodontid (!), totally stealing Scott Hartman's thunder. If this is the case, that is, if Anchiornis can actually be demonstrated as a troodont (or even just non-dromaeosaurid) with large airfoils on the hind legs, the argument that all deinonychosaurs or even all birds went through a gliding tetrapteryx stage and are secondarily flightless to some degree just got pretty darn rock solid. Greg Paul, throw yourself a party, and set a place for William Beebe.
Being a protobird fan myself, this prompted me to immediately go to the nature.com online preprint section and start clicking refresh faster than you can whip a ram at Brewfest. Needless to say I was dissapointed and will have to start hounding J. about the paper until something pops up on the DML to whet my appetite for photos so I can get started drawing this thing. More to come one I have a chance to read the paper and collect some goss!
Just been informed that not only is this on Nature's front page, but the pdf appears to be free? Or is it because I'm logged in?