Fossils of flying reptiles come in two versions: the older long-tailed pterosaurs and the more recent short-tailed versions. The fossil gap between the two was a mystery until 20 skeletons of a new species were discovered early in 2009 in northeast China. The new pterosaur was named Darwinopterus in honor of the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth.
"Darwinopterus came as quite a shock to us," explained David Unwin part of the research team and based at the University of Leicester's School of Museum Studies. "We had always expected a gap-filler with typically intermediate features such as a moderately elongate tail – neither long nor short – but the strange thing about Darwinopterus is that it has a head and neck just like that of advanced pterosaurs, while the rest of the skeleton, including a very long tail, is identical to that of primitive forms".
The discovery lends credence to the theory that evolution is not an even process, but contains periods of rapid evolution. Link -via Digg
(image credit: Mark Witton, University of Portsmouth)