The largest ‘four-winged’ microraptorine dinosaur, with remarkably long feathers, has been found in China, reports a study this week in Nature Communications. The unique feathers on the dinosaur’s tail and legs provide insights on flight performance in this close relative to birds.
Microraptorines are a group of predatory, feathered, non-avian dinosaurs from the Cretaceous Period; including several small ‘four-winged’ species with well-developed wings and long feathers attached to their legs.
Luis Chiappe and colleagues describe a new microraptorine from the Early Cretaceous with exceptionally long tail feathers. This specimen, named Changyuraptor yangi, is the largest known ‘four-winged’ dinosaur and has the longest feathers ever recorded in any non-avian dinosaur. The remarkably long feathered tail is thought to have played an important role in maintaining flight performance given its relatively large body size. Aerodynamic calculations indicate that its long feathered tail was instrumental for decreasing descent speed and assuring a safe landing.