More than 160 million years ago, the Jurbadic skies were full of winged creatures.
Some of these flyers may have sporting feathers (as do some of their compatriots on the ground, such as the baby T. rexes). But a new discovery suggests that at least one flying dinosaur boasted leather on a feather, flying through the air over modern China with wings similar to those of a bat.
In a recent study published in the journal Nature, scientists describe the discovery of a 163-million-year-old flying dinosaur, which was about the size of an urban pigeon.
"This fossil seals the agreement: there really were dinosaurs with bat wings," Stephen Brusatte, a paleontologist at the University of Edinburgh who was not involved in the study, told the journal Science.
Jingmai O & # 39; Connor, co-author of the new study, told the New York Times that the creature probably slipped through the air in a manner "halfway between a flying squirrel and a bat."
The fins of the skins stretched between the bones helped this dinosaur to fly.
The authors of the study named the new fossil. Ambopteryx longibrachium; the first word means "both wings", while the second means "long arm".
"You could have done it in your hand," O & # 39; Connor told Science. "It would have been a tiny thing, strange looking and toothy as if there was nothing alive today."
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O & # 39; Connor added that she and her colleagues think Ambopetry the males may have had long ornamental feathers to attract the females. The dinosaur probably also had a soft layer of peach fuzz, but those feathers would have been too small to be used in flight.
However, bat wings were the most striking feature of the dinosaur.
In general, birds generate the sustenance they need to take off and stay in flight by flapping feathered wings. The feathers in layers form a curved surface called the aerodynamic surface that the air in movement pushes upward, helping the bird to fly.
On the other hand, the aerodynamic blades of bats are formed from flaps of skin that extend between the bones of the arm of animals. The air flow under and around these membranous flaps of the skin generates the lift. A similar structure has been found on the wings of extinct pterosaurs (flying reptiles that were cousins of dinosaurs).
Fossil evidence shows that the newly discovered flying dinosaur had similarly elongated forearms, with skin fins traversing the gaps between the bones. The skin was held in place with a rod of cartilage on the wrist of the animal called styliform.
It's a bird … It's a bat … It's a flying dinosaur
Birds and bats evolved separately in the winged flight, and each group of animals used a different type of wing to fly.
Paleontologists were confident that some dinosaurs could also fly (some groups of dinosaurs evolved into the ancestors of modern-day birds), but they were not sure how prehistoric creatures got the ability.
Then, in 2015, scientists unearthed a dinosaur called Yi qi (which means "strange wing" in Mandarin) in northwest China. It was almost as small as the newly discovered Ambopteryx, and sported similar fins of skin stretched between his forearms and torso. But the fossil was too poorly preserved for paleontologists to determine if Yi qi I could fly like a bat. The researchers clbadified it as a type of tiny Therapod dinosaur (the same family as the Tyrannus Saurian Rex It belonged to) that he spent most of his time climbing and gliding among the trees.
Now, Ambopteryx provides evidence that the bat wings of these Jurbadic dinosaurs allowed them to fly, at least partially.
However, no dinosaur of this type lived beyond the end of the Jurbadic period 145 million years ago. For O & # 39; Connor, that indicates that AmbopteryxThe evolutionary strategy for flight was not as successful as the feathers of the ancestors of birds. For that reason, the study authors concluded that these bat wings "probably represent short-lived experimentation" with flight behavior among dinosaurs.