A team of paleontologists has recently discovered a very-well preserved new species of winged dinosaur skeleton in the north-eastern region of China. The dinosaurs had large feathered wings that made it look like a big bird with a very sharp set of teeth.
Steve Brusatte, paleontologist at the University of Edinburgh, and one of the researchers who discovered the fossils, said that the new species of winged dinosaur is called Zhenyuanlong suni, which in Chinese means “fluffy feathered poodle from hell”. The prehistoric beast was about 6 feet long and it’s considered the largest of its kind ever discovered.
The Zhenyuanlong dinosaur belongs to the family of carnivorous raptors and is a close relative to the velociraptor, Brusatte wrote in his paper. The paleontologists said the two species of dinosaur were related to each other, even though they lived almost 50 million years apart. According to Brusatte, the giant prehistoric bird lived during the early Cretaceous Period, which was more than 125 million years ago.
After analyzing the fossils, the paleontologists concluded the new species of dinosaur had wings that resembled those of modern birds of prey, such as vultures and eagles.
Junchang Lü, another one of the paleontologists who discovered the dinosaur fossils, explained that the creature resembled a modern bird. He said it probably looked like a big turkey, an emu bird or a very large chicken. Even though it was equipped with big wings, the prehistoric bird did not use them for flying.
Brusatte said that it was big raptor with short arms, compared to the size of its body, which is why the researchers believe it wasn’t able to fly or glide in the air. Brusatte believes the new species of dinosaur used its wings to attract mating partners and to intimidate its rivals, just like modern peacocks do. The researchers said this raises some important questions on the evolution of wings and their initial purpose.
The researchers wonder if the wings evolve to help creature fly. If that is the case, then the new species of winged dinosaur probably evolved from a creature that could fly, which is why it kept the wings. Or, the researchers believe, the wings may have evolved for displaying purposes, egg brooding or for some other reasons, and then they evolved in some dinosaurs and helped them fly and glide.
The researchers described the new species of winged dinosaur in the latest edition of the journal Scientific Reports.
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