A fossil specimen discovered in the Hebei province 10 years ago has allowed scientists to estimate that the strange bird-like dinosaur lived for a short time during the Jurassic Period, around 160 million years ago. The research was published in the journal Nature on Wednesday, write Shen Lu and Katie Hunt for CNN.
Small dinosaur one of first to have wings
The researchers estimate that the dinosaur weighed around 230 grams, and measured approximately 63 centimeters in length. Lead study author Xu Xing, a paleontologist with China’s Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, said that the fossil emphasized the complexity of evolution.
The creature has been named Yi Qi, or “strange wing” in Mandarin, and Xu claims that it is one of the first dinosaurs to have evolved in such a way that would enable it to fly, albeit unsuccessfully. This is due in part to the fact that its wings were made of membranes, like those of a bat, rather than feathers, like other dinosaurs.
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Xu says that it is one of the first evolutionary examples of modern-day birds, but essentially it failed. “It’s a failed experiment, it’s an evolutionary dead end,” Xu said. “Over the last 30 years, there were so many discoveries made that demonstrate birds are really descendants of dinosaurs,” he said.
Despite the fact that the dinosaur had a pair of wings, scientists are not sure whether it could actually flap them. Xu said its more likely that its flying abilities were limited to gliding.