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New Fossil Details Heavily Winged Raptor

July 16, 2015



Scientists in China have announced that a new species of feathered dinosaur discovered by a farmer has wings that are very well preserved, leading the scientists to believe that it could provide a better link between bird and dinosaur. According to a study published in Scientific Reports, the huge wings on the dinosaur, which the paleontologists say is a close relative of the velociraptor, are short but were heavily covered in feathers. Scientists speculate that the wings didn’t provide the animal with the capability to fly but were perhaps used for mating rituals or defensive posturing. The wings have multiple layers of large feathers and were complex structures that were comprised of fine quill pen-like feathers connected to a central shaft. 


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Zhenyuanlong suni

CHUANG ZHAO

Zhenyuanlong suni lived about 125 million years ago during the Cretaceous Period.

"The western part of Liaoning Province in China is one of the most famous places in the world for finding dinosaurs," said Junchang Lu, a noted dinosaur hunter from China. “The first feathered dinosaurs were found here and now our discovery of Zhenyuanlong indicates that there is an even higher diversity of feathered dinosaurs than we thought. It's amazing that new feathered dinosaurs are still being found."

Zhenyuanlong suni fossil

JUNCHANG LÜ

Zhenyuanlong suni is unusual in that it really looks like a bird, was fairly large with short arms, and had wings.

Stephen Brusatte of the University of Edinburgh, who last year discovered a long snouted Tyrannosaur alongside Lu, told CBS News that Zhenyuanlong suni is unusual in that it really looks like a bird, was fairly large with short arms, and had wings. 

“It's the biggest dinosaur we know of that had proper wings and also the first time we had found a dinosaur with short arms with wings as well,” Brusatte told CBS News. “So, there is a whole lot of mystery about this guy." The fossil measured 5’4” in length.

Zhenyuanlong suni lived during the Creataceous Period about 125 million years ago. The fossil showed that feathers were found throughout much of the dinosaur’s tail and wings, unlike other feathered dinosaurs that had feathers that looked more like hair than modern bird feathers. 

The complete paper can be accessed at Nature.com


John B. Virata keeps a western hognose snake, a ball python, two corn snakes, a king snake, and two leopard geckos. His first snake, a California kingsnake, was purchased at the Pet Place in Westminster, CA for $5. His first pet reptile was a green anole that arrived in a small box via mail order. Follow him on Twitter @johnvirata 

 

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