Dinosaurs such as the Changyuraptor and the previously discovered Microraptor are called four winged dinosaurs because of the set of feathers attached to its legs that appear to be a second set of wings. The long feathers attached to both legs and arms of these ancient predators have led researchers to conclude that the four-winged dinosaurs were capable of flying.
This discovery sheds light on how these large bodied creatures were able to fly. The new fossil documents that dinosaur flight was not limited to very small animals but to dinosaurs of more substantial size
Four Winged Flying Dinosaur: the Changyuraptor
A new raptorial dinosaur fossil with exceptionally long feathers has provided exciting insights into dinosaur flight. A paper published in Nature Communications on July 15, 2014 asserts that the fossil—discovered by an international team led by Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (NHM) paleontologist Dr. Luis Chiappe—has a long feathered tail that Chiappe and co-authors believe was instrumental for decreasing descent speed and assuring safe landings.
The 125-million-year-old dinosaur, named Changyuraptor yangi, was found in the Liaoning Province of northeastern China. The location has seen a surge of discoveries in feathered dinosaurs over the last decade. The newly discovered, remarkably preserved dinosaur sports a full set of feathers cloaking its entire body, including the extra-long tail feathers. "At a foot in length, the amazing tail feathers of Changyuraptor are by far the longest of any feathered dinosaur," said Chiappe.
Video: Four Winged Dinosaurs
|This shows Changyuraptor with (right) details of plumage.|
Credit: Photo by L. Chiappe, Dinosaur Institute, NHM
How well these creatures used the sky as a thoroughfare has remained controversial. The new discovery explains the role that the tail feathers played during flight control. For larger flyers, safe landings are of particular importance. "It makes sense that the largest microraptorines had especially large tail feathers—they would have needed the additional control," added Dr. Michael Habib, a researcher at the University of Southern California and a co-author of the paper.
The discovery of Changyuraptor consolidates the notion that flight preceded the origin of birds, being inherited by the latter from their dinosaurian forerunners. "The new fossil documents that dinosaur flight was not limited to very small animals but to dinosaurs of more substantial size," said Chiappe. "Clearly far more evidence is needed to understand the nuances of dinosaur flight, but Changyuraptor is a major leap in the right direction."
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
Natural History Museum
University of Cape Town
Studying the Four Winged Dinosaur: The Microraptor
Dinosaurs Survived By Shrinking
375 Million Year Old Fossil Show Evolution Of Hind Legs Started As Enhanced Fish Fins
Duck-billed Dinosaur, Edmontosaurus Regalis, Had Fleshy Head Comb Like A Rooster's Crest
Largest Dinosaur Argentinosaurus Huinculensis Walking Digitally Simulated
Fossilized Pollen Suggests Flowering Plants Evolved 250 Million Years Ago
Fossil of Giant Camel That Lived During the Pliocene Period Found In Canada's High Arctic
New Horned Dinosaur Nasutoceratops Titusi Discovered in Utah