A new winged dinosaur fossil has been discovered in China and it dates back to 125 million years ago.
The Cretaceous period winged dinosaur was unearthed and analyzed by scientists at the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences and the University of Edinburgh.
As a pop-culture reference, a close relative of Jurassic Park’s Velociraptor, this dinosaur was named Zhenyuanlong suni, or Zhenyuanlong Sun’s dragon.
Unearthed in Liaoning province, the dromaeosaur is the largest fossil discovered that present an almost complete skeleton, preserved for 125 million years, full with the distinguishing set of complex feathered-wings.
Not only did the dromaeosaur have complex and beautifully colored feathers covering its wings, but also its tail. The feathered carnivorous dromaeosaur’s wings were, albeit their complexity, shorter than those of other dromaeosaurs and had no specific purpose, according to the scientists.
Doctor Steve Brusatte of the School of Geosciences of the University of Edinburgh, and co-author of the study detailing the exciting finding of the winged dinosaur, stated:
“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”.
The scientists revealed that the winged Zhenyuanlong suni could have grown to five feet long. Yet, their feathered wings were of no help. They could not fly the way birds do, as their wings had a different anatomical display. One shaft was the stemming point of several fine branches that made up the complex wings of the Zhenyuanlong suni.
These in turn, were covered with large feathers set in multiple layers to create a mesmerizing display for purely decorative purposes. As peacocks flaunt their mesmerizing tails and use them in mating rituals, it is believed the Zhenyuanlong suni would have used its complex wings in a similar manner.
Other dromaeosaurs were found to have feathers as well. Yet, far from being the evolved large and long feathers of the Zhenyuanlong suni, these were often mere hair-like filaments.
The winged dinosaur was unearthed in the Liaoning Province, a region abundant with a wealth of dinosaurs fossils just waiting to reveal their secrets.
Lead author of the study, Professor Junchang Lu form the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences, Institute of Geology, stated:
“The western part of Liaoning Province is one of the most famous places in the world for finding dinosaurs. It’s amazing that new feathered dinosaurs are still being found”.
The discovery of the dromaeosaur Zhenyuanlong suni is indeed spectacular. Particularly for the complex wings and the full-fledged layers of feathers, the fossil is worthy of all the excitement it created.
The study detailing the finding is featuring in the Scientific Reports journal.
Photo Credits nationalgeographic.com