Newly discovered dinosaur species is largest with bird-like feathers

8/4/2015 | 0

Feathers cover the arms and tail of Zhenyuanlong suni, a new feathered dinosaur from the early Cretaceous (ca. 125 million years ago). Reconstruction by Chuang Zhao.

Feathers cover the arms and tail of Zhenyuanlong suni, a new feathered dinosaur from the early Cretaceous (ca. 125 million years ago). Reconstruction by Chuang Zhao.

Feathered dinosaurs from Liaoning Province, in northeastern China, have revolutionized our understanding of the connection between birds and their closest relatives. Most were covered with simple hairlike filaments, but a handful had wings and tails consisting of feathers similar to those of present-day birds, with central shafts and barbs.

The dinosaur shown above, a new species related to Velociraptor, is the largest yet unearthed with bird-like feathers. Its skeleton, below, was nearly complete upon discovery. It was curated at the Jinzhou Paleontological Museum and studied by scientists from the University of Edinburgh and the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences.

More than five feet long, the dinosaur had an orderly sequence of vaned coverts, primaries, and secondaries, but its arms were short and it probably did not fly.

“It may be,” write paleontologists Junchang Lü and Stephen L. Brusatte, “that such large wings comprised of multiple layers of feathers were useful for display purposes, and possibly even evolved for this reason and not for flight.”

A version of this article appeared in the October 2015 issue of BirdWatching.

Holotype of the large-bodied, short-armed Liaoning dromaeosaurid Zhenyuanlong suni gen et. sp. nov. (JPM-0008).

Holotype of the large-bodied, short-armed Liaoning dromaeosaurid Zhenyuanlong suni gen et. sp. nov. (JPM-0008).

Read the report

Junchang Lü and Stephen L. Brusatte. 2015. A large, short-armed, winged dromaeosaurid (Dinosauria: Theropoda) from the Early Cretaceous of China and its implications for feather evolution. Scientific Reports 5, article number 11775; doi: 10.1038/srep11775

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Read our review of “Flying Dinosaurs” (2014), a book about recently discovered feathered dinosaurs.

 

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