In the dinosaur kingdom, the raptor reigns as a pop-culture bogeyman. While not as big as the T. Rex, the feathered creature had a mean set of teeth and claws. But there was at least one refuge from its tyranny: the air.
Now, however, scientists have discovered a new fossil that lays waste to that pleasant fiction. This new raptorial dinosaur named Changyuraptor yangi not only flew — it had four wings. And those wings were studded with the longest feathers any dinosaur has ever worn, said lead researcher Luis Chiappe of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” he told The Washington Post. “It is a stunning specimen and it was stunning to see the size of the feathers. This is the dinosaur with the longest known feathers — by far. There is nothing like this by a very good distance. The feathers were one-fourth the size of the animal.” Chiappe paused for a moment. “It’s just wonderful,” he said.
In the pantheon of hulking dinos, this one wasn’t on the larger side. Published in the scientific journal Nature Communications on Tuesday, the article by Chiappe and colleagues reported it was only about four feet long and weighed about nine pounds — approximately three times the weight of your everyday seagull. But what it lacked in size, it made up for in importance, researchers said.
Classed as a “microraptorine,” its fossils “are essential for testing hypotheses explaining the origin and early evolution of avian flight,” the paper stated. “The lengthy feathered tail of the new fossil provides insight into the flight performance of microraptorines and how they may have maintained aerial competency at larger body sizes.”
Be nice if the WaPo would’ve told us this is from the Early Cretaceous (100-146M years ago). But anyway, that’s cool.