Published: Thu, January 23, 2020
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

'Dancing dragon' shows feathers grew differently on dinosaurs and birds

'Dancing dragon' shows feathers grew differently on dinosaurs and birds

A new dinosaur species called Wulong bohaiensis is offering researchers clues into the relationship between bird species and dinosaurs.

First discovered in China more than a decade ago, in one of the world's richest fossil deposits, the ancient animal's beautifully preserved bones have only recently received closer inspection. This type of paleontologists gave the name of Wulong bohaiensis, which translates as "the dancing dragon".

The dinosaur was about the size of a large raven but double its length.

The dinosaur sported a scaly face, a mouth full of pointy teeth and one particularly risky toe claw, and possibly preyed upon small mammals, lizards, birds, and fish.

The dinosaur was an early relative of Velociraptors, which lived 75 million years ago.

WASHINGTON-An exquisite fossil of a fierce little Chinese dinosaur dubbed the "dancing dragon" that lived 120 million years ago - an older cousin of the Velociraptor - is showing scientists that feathers grew differently on dinosaurs than on birds.

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Reference: "A new microraptorine theropod from the Jehol Biota and growth in early dromaeosaurids" by Ashley W. Poust, Chunling Gao, David J. Varricchio, Jianlin Wu and Fengjiao Zhang, 15 January 2020, The Anatomical Record. However, the couple of elongated feathers near the bird's tail and others on the dinosaur's body and limbs show that they developed feathers earlier in their life than birds. To understand this contradiction, the scientists cut up several bones of the new dinosaur to examine under a microscope. "Of course, perhaps they're using these feathers in a very different way from living birds, too".

This discovery is extremely important not only because it talks about a dinosaur that's new to science but also because it highlights the connection between birds and dinosaurs.

This dinosaur was a juvenile to its death, according to its bones, but its feathers resembled those of a mature adult. However, it might take time to grow adult feathers. Poust, who is the lead researcher of the new study, said that "This is quite different from living birds and tells us that these decorative feathers preceded adulthood in dinosaurs".

The specimen's preserved feathers and bones have now been analyzed by a team of researchers in a study published in the America Association For Anatomy.

The site of the find is a place rich in birds from the beginning, and also houses pterosaurs and dinosaurs similar to birds.

"There was a lot of flying, gliding, and flapping around these ancient lakes", Poust explained. It was also at this time that the flowering plants started to flower. "As we continue to discover more about the diversity of these small animals, it becomes interesting how everyone could have fit into the ecosystem ..."

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