Sunday, July 19, 2015

New Winged Dinosaur Zhenyuanlong suni

A newly identified species of dinosaur is the largest ever discovered to have a well-preserved set of bird-like wings, research shows.

Paleontologists working in China unearthed the fossil remains of the winged dinosaur - a close cousin of Velociraptor, which was made famous by the Jurassic Park films.

Fossil of large-bodied, short-armed Liaoning dromaeosaurid Zhenyuanlong suni
Credit: Scientific Reports / Junchang Lu and Stephen Brusatte

"This new dinosaur is one of the closest cousins of Velociraptor, but it looks just like a bird. It’s a dinosaur with huge wings made up of quill pen feathers, just like an eagle or a vulture. The movies have it wrong—this is what Velociraptor would have looked like too," says Dr Steve Brusatte, School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh
Short wings

Researchers say its wings - which are very short compared with other dinosaurs in the same family - consisted of multiple layers of large feathers.

Although larger feathered dinosaurs have been identified before, none have possessed such complex wings made up of quill pen-like feathers, the team says.

Scientists have known for some time that many species of dinosaur had feathers, but most of these were covered with simple filaments that looked more like hair than modern bird feathers.

An artist’s impression of the new short-armed and winged feathered dinosaur Zhenyuanlong suni found in China and from the early Cretaceous period (125m years ago).

Illustration: Chuang Zhao

The discovery suggests winged dinosaurs with larger and more complex feathers were more diverse than previously thought.

Near-complete fossil

The species belonged to a family of feathered carnivores that was widespread during the Cretaceous Period, and lived around 125 million years ago, the team says.

The near-complete skeleton of the animal was studied by scientists from the University and the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences.

The newly discovered species - named Zhenyuanlong suni - grew to more than five feet in length, and dense feathers covered the dinosaur’s wings and tail.

Flightless dinosaur

Despite having bird-like wings, it probably could not fly, at least not using the same type of powerful muscle-driven flight as modern birds, researchers say.

The species may have evolved from ancestors that could fly and used its wings solely for display purposes, in a similar way to how peacocks use their colourful tails, researchers say.

The study is published in the journal Scientific Reports. The research was supported by Natural Science Foundation of China, the European Commission, and the US National Science Foundation.


Contacts and sources:
University of Edinburgh 


Citation:  A large, short-armed, winged dromaeosaurid (Dinosauria: Theropoda) from the Early Cretaceous of China and its implications for feather evolution
Junchang Lü  & Stephen L. Brusatte  Scientific Reports

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