The animal is known from a single specimen, initially described by Sankar Chatterjee. Chatterjee's description is of a bird, with a more bird-like skeletal structure than Archaeopteryx, with teeth on the tips of its jaws, and eyes at the front of its skull. It is about 14 inches (35 centimeters) tall, and is usually reconstructed with feathers (although the presence of feathers is speculation, as no evidence of them has yet been found). The remarkable thing about Chatterjee's description, is it seems to be of a more advanced bird than Archaeopteryx, that lived about 70 million years before Archaeopteryx.
Other scientists however dispute Chatterjee's analysis. They believe that Protoavis is actually a mix of bones from several animals ("chimeric") that have been put together incorrectly. These scientists argue for this conclusion based principally on the fact that the Protoavis bones were found in a jumbled mass of disarticulated fossil bones, that were probably deposited during a flash flood. Additionally, no other birds are known to have lived in the Americas until the Cretaceous period.
When Protoavis was first discovered, some scientists used it to argue against the fact that birds evolved from dinosaurs (they argued that birds evolved from dinosaur relatives or ancestors). Chatterjee himself however argued that Protoavis supported a dinosaur-bird evolutionary link, and in any case, regardless of the status of Protoavis, numerous other fossils have since been found which provide strong evidence for a dinosaur-bird link.
Protoavis may have been a small bird that lived between 225 and 210 million years ago
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