1 minute read
15 Jul 2014
3:57 pm

Dinosaur fossil sheds light on flight

The fossil of a 125 million-year-old dinosaur with very long feathers was discovered in China, a University of Cape Town professor said on Tuesday.

Model of a dinosaur is seen at the entrance of the dinosaur theme park in Kleinwelka, eastern Germany, on April 1, 2014

Biological science professor Anusuya Chinsamy-Turan was part of an international team which recently discovered the Changyuraptor yangi in the Liaoning province in north-eastern China.

The research team was led by United States palaeontologist Dr Luis Chiappe.

The predatory dinosaur was fully cloaked in feathers and had a 30 centimetre-long feathered tail that was believed to assist flying.

At the time of death, the animal was fully grown, weighed four kilograms and was 1.2 metres long.

Chinsamy-Turan said these dinosaurs were known as “four-winged” dinosaurs because the long feathers attached to the legs looked like a second set of wings.

“As we know birds have wings on their forelimbs. However, about 10 years ago, predatory dinosaurs were discovered with wings on both their forelimbs and hind-limbs,” she said.

“Our new microraptor, Changyuraptor, is quite large, and we propose that its unusually long tail helped to keep it airborne and could have assisted with landing.”

Dr Alan Turner, of Stony Brook University in New York, said features such as hollow bones, nesting behaviours, feathers and possibly flight had evolved in dinosaurs long before birds arrived on the scene.

Chiappe said the new fossil showed that substantially sized dinosaurs, and not only small animals, were able to fly.

“Clearly, far more evidence is needed to understand the nuances of dinosaur flight, but the Changyuraptor is a major leap in the right direction,” he said.

Their findings would be published in the Nature Communications journal on Tuesday.