Scientists in China have discovered the fossil of a "bizarre" pigeon-sized dinosaur with bat-like wings, which lived in the northeastern part of the country millions of years ago. The creature is the first-known dinosaur species with membranous wings that have thin membranes between the veins, scientists said in a study, published in the journal Nature on Wednesday.
The tiny dinosaur, named Yi qi, which means “strange wing” in Mandarin, is believed to have existed on Earth about 160 million years ago during the Jurassic Period, or nearly 10 million years before the earliest-known bird “Archaeopteryx” first came to exist, Reuters reported. Although Yi qi -- estimated to weigh less than a pound -- is considered a cousin of birds, the dinosaur had wings made of skin like those of bats, which appeared over 100 million years later.
“This guy is not far from the first birds, in fact,” Xing Xu, a paleontologist at Linyi University in China, and the study’s co-author, told Reuters. “It belongs to a bizarre dinosaur group called the scansoriopterygids, which are closely related to the most primitive birds such as Archaeopteryx.”
The dinosaur’s fossil was found by a farmer in the Tiaojishan Formation of Hebei Province in China. After the specimen's authenticity was confirmed, it was put under a group of dinosaurs called “theropods.” The creature also fits into a subgroup of small, feathered dinosaurs called “scansoriopterygids,” Live Science reported.
According to scientists, the dinosaur was probably not a skilled flyer, and most likely moved through air using a combination of flapping and gliding.
“It's hard to imagine that it could have flapped very effectively, since the rod-like bone was presumably a fairly unwieldy thing to have attached to the wrist,” Reuters quoted Corwin Sullivan, a paleontologist at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing, as saying. “So our guess would be that Yi qi was gliding or maybe combining gliding with some relatively inefficient flapping.”