Feathered Dinosaur With Bird-Like Wings Discovered in China

Creature lived 125 million years ago.

ByALYSSA NEWCOMB
July 17, 2015, 11:39 AM
PHOTO: This is an artist's impression of Zhenyuanlong suni.
This is an artist's impression of Zhenyuanlong suni.
Chuang Zhao

— -- Paleontologists have discovered a bird-like dinosaur in China that lived 125 million years ago and had a set of wings that surprisingly weren't used for flight.

The Zhenyuanlong suni was a cousin of the better known Velociraptor. The dinosaur's wings are shorter than other relatives and included layers of large feathers on its wings and tail, according to a study published on Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports.

Despite its winged stature, the dinosaur likely did not fly, according to researchers, who believe it would have been difficult for the creature, which grew to more than five-feet in length, to take on the same muscle-driven flight seen in birds.

PHOTO: This is an image provided by University of Edinburgh  taken in Jinzhou, China, in 2014 and released on Thursday July 16, 2015 of the fossil of a new species of dinosaur named Zhenyuanlong suni.
This is an image provided by University of Edinburgh taken in Jinzhou, China, in 2014 and released on Thursday July 16, 2015 of the fossil of a new species of dinosaur named Zhenyuanlong suni.
Steve Brusatte/University of Edinburgh via AP Photo

If the dinosaur didn't fly, the evolutionary reason for why it had wings is unclear, however researchers say it may have evolved from ancestors that did fly and may have used its short wings the same way peacocks flaunt their colorful tails.

What makes the discovery especially exciting though is the intricate pattern of feathers found on the dinosaur's body.

"It's a dinosaur with huge wings made up of quill pen feathers, just like an eagle or a vulture," Steve Brusatte, a professor at the University of Edinburgh and a co-author of the study, said in a statement.

"The movies have it wrong," Brusatte said. "This is what Velociraptor would have looked like too."

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