Largest bird-like dinosaur unearthed in China


17th July, 2015 02:13:46 printer

Largest bird-like dinosaur unearthed in China

An handout artist impression released on July 15, 2015 shows a reconstruction of the new short-armed and winged feathered dinosaur Zhenyuanlong suni. (AFP Photo / Ministry of Land and Resources of China / Chuang Zhao)

BEIJING:  A team of palaeontologists working in China has unearthed the fossil remains of the winged dinosaur - a close cousin of the Velociraptor - which was made famous by the "Jurassic Park" film series.

Named Zhenyuanlong suni, the feathered dinosaur is the largest ever discovered to have a well-preserved set of bird-like wings.

"It is 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," said Steve Brusatte from the University of Edinburgh's School of Geosciences who co-authored the study.

Its wings - which are very short compared with other dinosaurs in the same family - consisted of multiple layers of large feathers.

The team 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 says.

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. Our discovery of Zhenyuanlong indicates that there is an even higher diversity of feathered dinosaurs than we thought," noted professor Junchang Lu from the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences who led the study.

The species belonged to a family of feathered carnivores that was widespread during the Cretaceous Period, and lived around 125 million years ago.

The fossil reveals dense feathers covered the dinosaur's wings and tail, said the study appeared in the journal Scientific Reports.

The newly-discovered species grew to more than five feet in length.

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.

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, the researchers concluded.