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Fossils from Liaoning

Liaoning Province in northeastern China is just a day's drive from Beijing. Liaoning ("lee-ow-NING") is known for its farmland and factories--and also for some of the most important fossil beds in the world. Since the first dinosaur remains were discovered there in the early 1990s, thousands of fossil plants and animals--including insects, fish, dinosaurs, birds, amphibians and mammals--have been found in Liaoning.

These discoveries are notable not just for the number and diversity of species that have been found. The Liaoning fossils are also amazingly well-preserved. Delicate features like skin texture and feathers are clearly visible in many of the animal specimens. Indeed, the discovery of numerous feathered dinosaurs in Liaoning continues to reveal important information about the origin of feathers and flight, as well as the evolution of birds.

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Mick Ellison/AMNH

Exhibition curator Mark Norell at fossil site.

Liaoning Past

Around 130 million years ago, when the plants and animals on display were alive, the large landmass consisting of what is now Europe and Asia was in essentially the same location as it is today, although sea levels were much higher than they are now.

Liaoning's Fossil Beds

The most famous of Liaoning's numerous fossil sites is located near the small village of Sihetun. Today local farmers find many fossils and bring them to the attention of scientists. Paleontologist Mark Norell of the American Museum of Natural History--shown here in a quarry at Sihetun--is one of many researchers around the world studying the Liaoning fossils.

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