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New Velociraptor Cousin Had Quill-Pen Feathers: Chicken?

Jul 17, 2015 02:25 PM EDT
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In Jurassic Park, the velociraptor was wicked lizard meets T-Rex with more arm power. But real-life cousins were feathered and flightless like chickens, say paleontologists from the University of Edinburgh and the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences who recently published findings on the newly found member of the dromaeosaurid genus, Zhenyuanlong suni, in the journal Scientific Reports.

Near-complete fossil remains have shown that the Zhenyuanlong is the largest dinosaur to have a well-preserved set of bird-like wings. Those wings were short and had multiple layers of large, quill pen-like feathers--like an eagle or a vulture, the researchers say, in a release. While many dinosaurs had feathers, most of those had simple filaments that more resembled hair than modern bird feathers.

Quite possibly, winged dinosaurs with larger and more complex feathers were more diverse than previously thought, the release said.

Zhenyuanlong was part of a family of feathered meat-eaters widespread in the Cretaceous Period, living around 125 million years ago. They grew to more than five feet in length, but probably could not fly. It's possible that the species evolved from ancestors that could fly and used its wings for display purposes, a bit in the way that peacocks use their tails, researchers said in the release.

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