North-eastern China continues to amaze scientists with its rich treasure trove of feathered dinosaur fossils. The latest to be unearthed is a spectacularly preserved, nearly complete fossil of a creature with wings like those of a bird, and rows of savage teeth, suggesting the creature was a “fluffy feathered poodle from hell”.
The researchers said the fast-running meat-eater was about 1.8 metres long but, although covered with large, quill-like feathers on its wings and long tail, it was unlikely to be able to fly.
Named Zhenyuanlong suni, it is the largest-known dinosaur with wings and lived about 125 million years ago during the Cretaceous Period.
University of Edinburgh palaeontologist Steve Brusatte suggests that Zhenyuanlong could have been descended from a flying ancestor, which is why it still has wings.
The dinosaur was a member of a group of dinosaurs called raptors closely related to birds, it was a cousin of Velociraptor.
“Zhenyuanlong was a dinosaur that really looked like a bird,” Brusatte, who collaborated with Chinese palaeontologist Junchang Lü, told Reuters. “You wouldn’t think of it differently than a turkey or an emu or a big chicken.”
John Pickrell, author of Flying Dinosaurs, writes about the fossil-rich northeastern region of China in the next issue of Cosmos magazine.
Bill Condie is a science journalist based in Adelaide, Australia.
Read science facts, not fiction...
There’s never been a more important time to explain the facts, cherish evidence-based knowledge and to showcase the latest scientific, technological and engineering breakthroughs. Cosmos is published by The Royal Institution of Australia, a charity dedicated to connecting people with the world of science. Financial contributions, however big or small, help us provide access to trusted science information at a time when the world needs it most. Please support us by making a donation or purchasing a subscription today.