Plumage aplenty: fossil found of ‘four-winged’ feathered dinosaur

Posted by: Ken Gerhard on July 17th, 2014

In the course of my Thunderbird research, I receive many reports that seem to blur the lines between raptor type birds and pterosaurs. As this new find clearly illustrates – It is sometimes difficult to draw the line between birds and archaic reptiles.

NHM handout shows an artist’s rendering of the newly discovered feathered dinosaur, Changyuraptor yangi.

It was built sort of like a biplane but probably did not fly as well, if at all.

Scientists on Tuesday described a fossil of a strange dinosaur that lived in China 125 million years ago which was covered in feathers, looked like it had two sets of wings and may have been able to glide.

The meat-eating creature, called Changyuraptor yangi, had exceptionally long tail feathers, the longest feathers of any dinosaur, at one foot in length (30 cm). It had feather-covered forelimbs akin to wings as well as legs covered in feathers in a way that gave the appearance of a second set of wings.

Changyuraptor is not considered a bird but rather a very bird-like dinosaur. It illustrates that it is not always easy to tell what is and is not a bird. It measured a bit more than 4 feet long (1.3 meters) and weighed roughly 9 pounds (4 kg).

If a person saw Changyuraptor, the reaction likely would be: “Hey! That is a weird-looking bird,” according to paleontologist Alan Turner of Stony Brook University in New York, one of the researchers.

“So, think a mid-sized turkey with a very long tail,” Turner added.

Scientists have identified a handful of these ‘four-winged’ dinosaurs, known as microraptorines. Changyuraptor is the largest.

Read the rest of the article here.

Ken Gerhard About Ken Gerhard
Ken has investigated reports of mysterious beasts around the world including Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, the Chupacabra, giant winged creatures and even werewolves. In addition to appearing in three episodes of the television series Monster Quest (History Channel), Ken is featured in the History Channel special The Real Wolfman, as well as Legend Hunters (Travel Channel/A&E), Paranatural (National Geographic), Ultimate Encounters (truTV) and William Shatner's Weird or What? (History Television). His credits include multiple appearances on Coast to Coast AM, major news broadcasts and Ireland’s Newstalk radio, as well as being featured in major books and in articles by the Associated Press, Houston Chronicle and Tampa Tribune. Ken is author of the books Big Bird: Modern Sightings of Flying Monsters and A Menagerie of Mysterious Beasts: Encounters with Cryptid Creatures, as well as the co-author of Monsters of Texas (with Nick Redfern) and has contributed to trade publications including Fate Magazine, Animals and Men, The Journal of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club and Bigfoot Times. He currently lectures and exhibits at events across America. Born on Friday the 13th of October, 1967 (exactly one week before the famous Patterson Bigfoot film was shot), Ken has traveled to twenty-six different countries on six continents and most of the United States. An avid adventurer, he has camped along the Amazon, explored the Galapagos, hiked the Australian Outback and has visited many ancient and mysterious sites, from Machu Pichu to Stonehenge.

4 Responses to “Plumage aplenty: fossil found of ‘four-winged’ feathered dinosaur”

  1. cryptokellie responds:


    1. There are no blurred lines between pterosaurs, a group of Mesozoic flying reptiles and “raptor type birds”. Birds are birds, whether you subscribe to avians as dinosaurs or not. Pterosaurs were a completely different line of reptiles that took to the air. The two groups (birds and pterosaurs) are not even very similar as pterosaurs were not dinosaurs. Pterosaurs share lineage aspects with both basal archosauromorph and dinosauromorph ancestors. This is yet a hotly debated subject among paleontologists. But they share almost nothing with “raptor type birds” except the fact that they can fly.

    2. Good advice is to wait for further study/verification about avian/dinosaur fossil finds from China. National Geographic found out the hard way when they had to retract an entire premier article about the “Archeoraptor” when the fossil was proven to be a hoax.

    3. Feathers do not necessarily guarantee a flying form. All birds have feathers, used for flight or not. Some smaller and juvenile dinosaurs might have possessed feathers but no known dinosaurs had the ability to fly. Once the pre-avian forms evolved flight feathers, along with many other adaptations, and took to the air they had ceased being dinosaurs proper and become, well…birds. Although I often wonder why dinosaurs proper did not invade the skies or the seas. Maybe future discoveries will open up newer cans of worms..

  2. Fhqwhgads responds:

    @cryptokellie — If it had flight feathers, wings, and hollowed bones to reduce weight, it’s a pretty good bet it either flew or is a recent descendant of a flying ancestor. Whether or not that makes it a bird is just a matter of nomenclature.

  3. Fhqwhgads responds:

    That is to say, near the base of any evolutionary tree it becomes unclear just what is a part of the tree and what is a close relative that is not a part of the tree. We get just that same confusion with Australopithecines — which species are our ancestors, and which are side branches? We get it with some early members of genus Homo. We get it with the ungulates that evolved into whales and with the fish that evolved into amphibians. This eventually becomes a matter of human taste, much like the decisions of how many continents there are and where the boundaries of these continents are (there are disagreements!) and what counts as a planet (nature shows a continuity with no regard for our classifications). So its kind of pointless to argue about whether creatures like Microraptor were birds.

    There is, of course, no such confusion about pterosaurs, which as cryptokellie says were quite distant relatives of birds and dinosaurs.

  4. cryptokellie responds:

    We are in agreement…if the fossil is authentic. I would wait for concise verification from several sources, before I threw my hat into this ring. The fabrication of fossil remains is a shady business and care should be taken…not get taken.

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