We now know that some dinosaurs – previously considered scaly and reptilian – were actually wearing feathers. But a newly discovered species of Scansoriopterygid dinosaur had bat-like wings: leathery, not feathery.
The tiny dinosaur is called ‘Ambopteryx longibrachium’ and was just 33 centimeters (13 inches) long. The flying animal lived 163 million years ago in the middle of the Jurassic in what is now Liaoning Province, China.
Scansoriopterygid dinosaurs were tiny non-avian animals about the size of small parrots, belonging to the same theropod suborder that also encompasses the mighty tyrannosaurs.
Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Min Wang analyzed the fossil finding and his co-authors reached an exciting conclusion: this was a new type of dinosaur. In their paper titled “A new Jurassic scansoriopterygid and the loss of membranous wings in theropod dinosaurs,” published on May 8th in Nature, they added details about the creature’s body.
Wang looked at the remains and noticed traces of quills on the dinosaur’s neck and realized that he was looking at a bat-winged dinosaur.
Another bat-winged dinosaur discovered in China was described by Xing Xu and Xiaoting Zheng in 2015 and received the name Yi qi, which stands for “strange wing” in Mandarin.
Since no birds exist with this type of wing today, it was likely a short-lived evolutionary experiment that ultimately lost out to the feathered variety, the researchers noted in their paper.
M. Wang et al. A new Jurassic scansoriopterygid and the loss of membranous wings in theropod dinosaurs. Nature. DOI: org/10.1038/s41586-019-1137-z)