A NEWLY discovered dinosaur is changing forever the way we look at birds, a Southampton scientist claims.

Dr Gareth Dyke has co-written a paper following the discovery of a bird-like dinosaur in China, which roamed the Earth long before the beasts thought to be the oldest ancestors of modern birds were alive.

The fossil from the late-Jurassic period challenges widely accepted views on the origin of flight.

Dr Dyke, senior lecturer in vertebrate palaeontology at Southampton University, describes a new feathered dinosaur about 30cm in length which pre-dates the dinosaurs from which birds were long thought to have evolved.

Scientists long believed that birds evolved from dinosaurs called theropods from around 120-130 million years ago.

But recent discoveries of feathered dinosaurs from the older Middle-Late Jurassic period have cast doubt on the old theory.

The new 'bird-dinosaur' Eosinopteryx has been described by Dr Dyke in Nature Communications this week.

“This discovery sheds further doubt on the theory that the famous fossil Archaeopteryx - or “first bird” as it is sometimes referred to - was pivotal in the evolution of modern birds,” said Dr Dyke, who is based at the National Oceanography Centre.

“Our findings suggest that the origin of flight was much more complex than previously thought.”

The fossilised remains found in China indicate that, while feathered, this was a flightless dinosaur, because of its small wingspan and a bone structure that would have restricted its ability to flap its wings.