Paleontologists in China have discovered a new dinosaur, a close relative of the Velociraptor in northeastern China. The dinosaur has a well-preserved set of wings, and the complete skeleton could reveal clues to what a velociraptor looked like.
The new Dinosaur, Zhenyuanlong with a chocolate-colored skeleton was found by a farmer in 125-million-year-old rocks, buried in volcanic ash. The ash provided the right environment for preserving the delicate bits that usually decay before a fossil is formed. The skeleton is still covered in feathers, hairy filaments coat the body, and large veined feathers emerge from the tail. The research team said that they have wings with properly layered feathers. Though it looked like a dinosaur, it might look like a turkey or a vulture, they added.
“The new dinosaur is one of the closest cousins of the Velociraptor, but it looks like a bird,” said Dr Steve Brusatte, co-author of the study, University of Edinburg’s school of Geosciences.
The discovery of the dinosaur is considered important as it is likely to reveal more details about evolution. Zhenyuanlong is a close relative of birds as it measure two meters from snout to tail, and has shorter arms than the Velociraptor. However, the use of the wigs remains unclear as it was big, short-armed and wasn’t flying. It was probably the dinosaur was evolving for flight, or opted to use it as an airfoil.
The dinosaur has been named Zhenyuanlong suni — Zhenyyan’s dragon, after the man who discovered the fossil and brought it up for study. Professor Junchang Ju of the Institute of Geology, Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences, said that the western part of the Lianing Province in China is one of the most popular places for finding dinosaurs. The study has been published in the journal Scientific Reports.
“This specimen is particularly important because it helps confirm that the evolution of dinosaur wings, and therefore the wings of birds, was not necessarily tightly coupled to the evolution of flight,” says Michael Habib, a paleontologist at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.