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Aves and a sister group, the clade Crocodilia, contain the only living representatives of the reptile clade Archosauria.
The Late Jurassic Archaeopteryx is well known as one of the first transitional fossils to be found, and it provided support for the theory of evolution in the late 19th century.
Archaeopteryx was the first fossil to display both clearly traditional reptilian characteristics: teeth, clawed fingers, and a long, lizard-like tail, as well as wings with flight feathers similar to those of modern birds.
It is not considered a direct ancestor of birds, though it is possibly closely related to the true ancestor.
The earliest known avialan fossils come from the Tiaojishan Formation of China, which has been dated to the late Jurassic period (Oxfordian stage), about 160 million years ago.
However, an earlier definition proposed by Jacques Gauthier gained wide currency in the 21st century, and is used by many scientists including adherents of the Phylocode system.