A new species of little dinosaurs that has bat-like wings has been discovered in China.
Paleontologists have found the fossilized remains of what is thought to be a 163-million year old creature in Liaoning, in the northeast part of China back in 2017.
Min Wang, a Chinese paleontologist from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and lead author of a study that has been published just this week described the newly discovered feathered dinosaur as Ambopteryx longibrachium.
“It was nothing like a bird. Nothing like a dinosaur,” Wang said about the 163 million-year-old fossil.
“[The discovery] completely changes our idea of dinosaur evolution,” Wing told the Independent. “We imagine dinosaurs have feathered wings, but this latest discovery changes how we understand the origins of flight.”
Further study of the fossil showed that it was in fact a tiny therapod dinosaur that has unique forlimbs and membranous wings, just like that of bats. It was only the second to show a dinosaur with bat-like wings, although this has also been seen in prehistoric flying squirrels and reptiles.
Wang said the soft tissue discovered on the fossil showed evidence of its bat-like flight, but he doubts that a tiny dinosaur, which would have been 32 centimeters in length and 306 grams in weight, would have been able to use its wings to fly.
“I would vote for gliding flight. The most important feature is that it doesn’t have flight muscles – the sternum – that would have allowed it to flap its wings,” Wang said.
Ambopteryx was related to Yiqi, another dinosaur that was found by a farmer in China in 2007.
“At least eight to ten species of dinosaurs at the time had feathered wings, but only two had membrane wings,” added Wang. “The fossil record is not complete and the feathered wing is more widely distributed so I think they probably evolved earlier.”