Thursday, July 17, 2014
Four-winged dinosaur is 'biggest ever'
A new four-winged dinosaur has been discovered, with exceptionally long feathers on its tail and "hindwings".
Changyuraptor yangi was a gliding predator which lived in the Cretaceous period in what is now Liaoning, China.
Its remarkable tail feathers - measuring up to 30cm - are the longest in any non-avian dinosaur.
This unusual plumage helped the creature to slow down during flight and land safely, say scientists writing in Nature Communications.
C. yangi is a new species of microraptorine, a group related to early avians.
These ancient creatures offer clues to the origin of flight - and the transition from feathered dinosaurs to birds.
Palaeontologists once thought that four-winged gliders were a stepping stone in the path to two-winged flight.
But recent fossil discoveries suggest that microraptorines were an evolutionary side-branch.
Flight probably evolved many times in different feathered species - not only the lineage which ultimately became birds.
The skeleton of C. yangi was discovered by a team from Bohai University, China, and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, US.
Measuring 132cm from its snout to the tip of its tail feathers, it is the largest four-winged dinosaur ever discovered - longer than an eagle or an albatross today. bbc
Microraptor gui - another ancient four-winged species