Plumage aplenty: fossil found of 'four-winged' feathered dinosaur

Tue Jul 15, 2014 2:18pm EDT
 
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Will Dunham

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - It was built sort of like a biplane but probably did not fly as well, if at all.

Scientists on Tuesday described a fossil of a strange dinosaur that lived in China 125 million years ago which was covered in feathers, looked like it had two sets of wings and may have been able to glide.

The meat-eating creature, called Changyuraptor yangi, had exceptionally long tail feathers, the longest feathers of any dinosaur, at one foot in length (30 cm). It had feather-covered forelimbs akin to wings as well as legs covered in feathers in a way that gave the appearance of a second set of wings.

Changyuraptor is not considered a bird but rather a very bird-like dinosaur. It illustrates that it is not always easy to tell what is and is not a bird. It measured a bit more than 4 feet long (1.3 meters) and weighed roughly 9 pounds (4 kg).

If a person saw Changyuraptor, the reaction likely would be: "Hey! That is a weird-looking bird," according to paleontologist Alan Turner of Stony Brook University in New York, one of the researchers.

"So, think a mid-sized turkey with a very long tail," Turner added.

Scientists have identified a handful of these 'four-winged' dinosaurs, known as microraptorines. Changyuraptor is the largest.

Birds arose from small, feathered dinosaurs. Crow-sized Archaeopteryx, which lived about 150 million years ago, is considered the earliest known bird. But many dinosaurs before and after that had feathers and other bird-like characteristics.   Continued...

 
An artist's rendering shows the newly discovered feathered dinosaur, Changyuraptor yangi, in this image released on July 15, 2014, courtesy of the Natural History Museum (NHM)'s Dinosaur Institute. Scientists on Tuesday described fossils of the strange dinosaur that lived in China 125 million years ago, which was covered in feathers, looked like it had two sets of wings and may have been able to glide.   
REUTERS/S. Abramowicz/Dinosaur Institute/NHM/Handout via Reuters