Quirks & Quarks

A Bat-Winged Dinosaur

A 160 million year-old fossil of a small bipedal dinosaur has evidence of a bat-like wing membrane.

Dinosaurs experimented with different kinds of flight

One possible reconstruction of the bat-like dinosaur Yi qi. (Dinostar Co. Ltd)
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Canadian paleontologist Dr. Corwin Sullivan calls it the strangest specimen he's ever seen. He and a team of Chinese colleagues have determined that a small, bipedal, dinosaur fossil, dating back 160 million years, had a bat-like membrane wing, which means dinosaurs evolved flying twice.

Dinosaurs evolved feathers, which they then used to build wings and develop flight, and that lineage survives today as birds. But this unique new fossil suggests that a closely related line of dinosaurs experimented with a completely different way to build a wing - one more similar to pterosaurs and bats.

Dr. Sullivan, who is an associate professor at the Institute for Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, says the fossil is not complete enough to understand how well it might have flown, but he suspects it wasn't a great flyer, which might be one reason why the lineage didn't survive.

Related Links

- Paper in Nature
Nature News story
Not Exactly Rocket Science blog
Smithsonian.com story
- CBC News story