While larger feathered dinosaurs have been found previously, none had ever possessed Zhenyuanlong’s complex, multi-layered bird-like wings. It likely lived around 125 million years ago, and grew to be more than 5 feet in length. Like their cousin, the Velociraptor, they were carnivores and hunted down their meals themselves.
“Zhenyuanlong was a dinosaur that really looked like a bird”, said University of Edinburgh paleontologist Steve Brusatte, who collaborated with Chinese paleontologist Junchang Lü. While the researchers have not ruled out the possibility these dinosaurs could fly, it is unlikely due to their body composition and small forearms, which were 16 inches (40 centimeters) long.
The Zhenyuanlong, as it has been dubbed, is covered in feathers and looks just like a bird of today, complete with three layers of quill features.
Many feathered dinosaur species have been identified before-some quite larger than Zhenyuanlong-but none had such complex wings made up of quill pen-like feathers, according to the researchers.
An artist’s impression of Zhenyuanlong in a Cretaceous forest.
“Did they evolve specifically for flight?”
The exquisitely preserved 125-million-year-old fossil shows that the roughly 5-foot-long (1.5 meters) dinosaur had clawed toes and fingers, sharp teeth, short arms and stunning plumage (unlike the scaly Velociraptors of “Jurassic World”), the researchers said.
“Whatever the case, the ‘fluffy feathered poodle from hell”, as the paleontologist called it, isn’t a dinosaur you’d want to have on your tail.
It is the largest winged dinosaur discovered to date and is a cousin of the Velociraptor. “In general it is very bird-like, but it’s big, and has these very short arms with full-blown wings”. “Or maybe it used its wings for display, or to brood its eggs. It is found in an area where volcanoes buried dinosaurs, preserving fine details of their feathers”, Brusatte said.
And one of the scientists is insisting that “the movies have it wrong – this is what velociraptor would have looked like too”.
“Velociraptor had feathers but we don’t know exactly what they looked like, since its fossils are not preserved in those ideal settings that fossilize soft tissues”, study co-author Steve Brusatte told Tech Times.
Feathered dinosaurs are still a recent discovery, having first been found in Liaoning Province a mere 20 years ago.