China: four-winged dinosaur fossil found

This video says about itself:

24 May 2013

Planet Dinosaur takes to the skies, to investigate the peculiarities of winged dinosaurs. Microraptor had feathers for gliding, but was it enough to escape from Sinornithosaurus?

From New Scientist:

A stunning set of six fossils discovered in China could rewrite our understanding of how and why birds first took to the sky.

The fossils clearly show a small dinosaur that had flight feathers covering its legs, as well as tail and arms, forming an extra pair of wings never before seen by palaeontologists.

News of the find comes just days after scientists published work showing that baby partridges flap their tiny wings to help them climb steep slopes, an insight that may explain why wings first evolved.

Together, the two discoveries may represent one the most significant advances in the contentious study of avian evolution for decades.

“We need to be prepared to change some cherished notions” about the evolution of flight, palaeontologist Larry Witmer of Ohio University told New Scientist.

Experts have traditionally been split between two mutually exclusive theories.

Flight either began with small, fleet predatory dinosaurs leaping from the ground into the air, or with other animals that learnt to fly whilst jumping to earth from trees.

But the new studies reveal a far more complex picture.

The six new specimens “are potentially as important as Archaeopteryx,” the famous feathered fossil discovered in the 1860s.

It first alerted scientists to the link between dinosaurs and birds, says Kevin Padian of the University of California at Berkeley.

The Chinese fossils are of a small dinosaur belonging to the Microraptor genus.

It is known to be the most primitive dromeosaur, a group of two-legged predatory dinosaurs closely related to birds.

Earlier Microraptor fossils did not preserve feathers. But the best of the six new specimens, thought to belong to a new species, have the most extensive coat of feathers ever seen on a dinosaur.

The animal was presumably light enough to fly – the best-preserved skeleton is just 77 centimetres from the nose to the tip of the long tail.

There is “no doubt the new animal is a flying animal,” says Xing Xu from the Institute for Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing, who describes the new fossils in Nature.

Xu describes it as a “four-winged dinosaur”.

Instead of being capable of powered flight, Xu believes that Microraptor used all four limbs to climb trees, and then glide back down again.

But Microraptor gui, as it has been dubbed, is unusual because it has feathers at the ends of its arms and legs that are twice as long as those close to its body.

5 thoughts on “China: four-winged dinosaur fossil found

  1. Rare dinosaur nest with eggs, embryos goes on sale
    12:23PM today

    By Jill Serjeant

    LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – An exceptionally well-preserved 65 million year-old fossilized dinosaur nest with some broken eggs exposing tiny skeletons is up for auction in Los Angeles on Sunday.

    The nest of raptors, fierce predatory dinosaurs, is expected to fetch between $180,000-$200,000.

    “It is probably one of the finest dinosaur egg nests in the world. For the tiny skeletons still to be inside the eggs, folded up beautifully like this, means that they had to be almost ready to hatch,” said Thomas Lindgren, consulting director of Natural History for auctioneers Bonhams and Butterfields.

    Lindgren said the 22-egg nest, encased in sandstone and containing 10 complete embryos, originated in China. It had been in the hands of private collectors in Asia for the past 20 years before being sold to an American.

    Tens of thousands of dollars have been spent on scientific preparation and studies to determine exactly which of the 6-8 known species of small raptor the nest belonged. That will be revealed in a 2007 academic paper now being prepared.

    The auction, which also includes several prehistoric skeletons and dinosaur bones, teeth and partial nests, comes at a time of renewed international interest in dinosaurs, particularly in Asia where several nations are pushing ahead with museum building programs.

    “Dinosaurs are hotter than ever. It is a very collectible market especially for higher quality specimens,” Lindgren said.

    Lindgren said the nest may remain in private hands rather than going to a museum, at least initially.

    “Unfortunately, most museums are slow at being able to put together funding at short notice. But that doesn’t mean it won’t end up going to an institution. Most of the museums in the United States have been founded by private collections that have been donated by individuals,” he said.


  2. Pingback: What prehistoric elephants ate | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  3. Pingback: Pterosaurs, ancient flyers, new research | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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