A newly identified species of feathered dinosaur has been unearthed in China – and it is a close cousin of the Velociraptor, made famous by the Jurassic Park films.
It is the largest dinosaur ever to have been unearthed with a well-preserved set of bird-like wings, researchers said.
The dinosaur – dubbed Zhenyuanlong suni by researchers – grew to more than five feet in length, and had very short wings compared with other dinosaurs in the same family, consisting of multiple layers of large feathers.
‘The movies have it wrong – this is what Velociraptor would have looked like too,’ said Dr Steve Brusatte, of Edinburgh University’s School of GeoSciences, who co-authored the study.
This latest discovery suggests that winged dinosaurs with larger and more complex feathers were more diverse than previously thought.
The species belonged to a family of feathered carnivores that was widespread during the Cretaceous Period, and lived around 125 million years ago, according to the team.
The near-complete skeleton of the animal – which is remarkably well preserved – was studied by scientists from Edinburgh University and the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences.
They found that the species’ feathers were complex structures made up of fine branches stemming from a central shaft.
Although larger feathered dinosaurs have been identified before, none have possessed such complex wings made up of quill pen-like feathers, the team have said.
Scientists have known for some time that many species of dinosaur had feathers, but most of these were covered with simple filaments that looked more like hair than modern bird feathers.
Zhenyuanlong suni however had dense feathers covering the dinosaur’s wings and tail.
Despite having bird-like wings, it probably could not fly, at least not using the same type of powerful muscle-driven flight as modern birds, researchers have said.
It is unclear what function the short wings served.
The species may have evolved from ancestors that could fly and used its wings solely for display purposes, in a similar way to how peacocks use their colourful tails.
‘This new dinosaur is one of the closest cousins of Velociraptor, but it looks just like a bird,’ said Brusatte.
‘It’s a dinosaur with huge wings made up of quill pen feathers, just like an eagle or a vulture.’
Professor Junchang Lu, of the Institute of Geology, Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences, who led the study, said: ‘The western part of Liaoning Province in China is one of the most famous places in the world for finding dinosaurs.
‘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.’
The study is published in the journal Scientific Reports.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3163761/New-species-winged-dinosaur-discovered-hints-close-cousin-Velociraptor-covered-feathers-too.html#ixzz3g6grj9rm
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