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Laser Technology Reveals How Dinosaurs Really Looked Like

Mar 01, 2017 08:00 PM EST
Exhibit Displays Newest Dinosaur Fossils
NEW YORK - MAY 10: A fossil of a Microraptor from a 130-million year old forest that existed in what is now Liaoning Province, China is displayed at the new exhibit 'Dinosaurs: Ancient Fossils, New Discoveries' at the American Museum of Natural History May 10, 2005 in New York City.
(Photo : Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Four-winged dinosaurs may sound like something straight out of Jurassic Park, but they're actually a reality. Researchers were able to come up with the accurate picture of this dinosaur yet, using laser technology that they shared in a new paper published in Nature.

According to a report from Discover Magazine, the technology -- called laser-stimulated flourescence (LSF) -- fires a laser on the fossil, prompting minerals in the bones to light up in different colors, revealing and exposing the soft tissues that are usually just invisible and undetectable to the naked eye.

For this recent study, the team focused on the small feathered dinosaur Anchiornus. With LSF, they found that this creature possessed drumstick legs, a thin tail and foot pads that were similar to the ones found on modern chickens. Anchiornus dates back to the late Jurassic Period, a time when birds were only beginning their emergence.

"The best way to refer to Anchiornis is as a basal paravian, an early member of the group of dinosaurs that includes birds and the bird-like dinosaurs that share their closest common ancestor with birds," co-author Michael Pittman from the Hong Kong University told National Geographic.

The Anchiornis aren't as well-known as other types of dinosaurs, but there's already a lot of information available on this winged dino.

After the first fossils were discovered in China last 2009, over 200 specimens have been unearthed and it was concluded that the creature did in fact have four wings and covered in feathers. Just a year after the first discovery, scientists analyzed the pigment-bearing melanosomes in the Anchiornis feathers and found out that it featured a black and gray body with white streaks and a red crest.

Despite its wings -- double than most modern birds (see picture here) -- scientists aren't certain if the Anchiornis had the ability to fly. It had a bird-like patagium, skin connecting the upper and lower arms that helps animals take to the skies. However, this is not definitive evidence, since there are other birds with a patagium but cannot fly.

There are still question marks, but the accurate picture of the dino revealed a lot of impressive details about this curious four-winged creature.

John Hutchinson, a professor of evolutionary biomechanics at the Royal Veterinary College at the University of London, appreciated the new technology and data that can help more scientists moving forward. LSF, he said, "is part of a flurry of tools emerging that help us to understand the evolution of soft tissues along extinct lineages."

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