A newly identified species of feathered dinosaur is the largest ever discovered to have a well-preserved set of bird-like wings, research suggests.
Palaeontologists working in China unearthed the fossil remains of the winged dinosaur -- a close cousin of Velociraptor, which was made famous by the Jurassic Park films.
Researchers say its wings -- which are very short compared with other dinosaurs in the same family -- consisted of multiple layers of large feathers. They found that the species' feathers were complex structures made up of fine branches stemming from a central shaft.
Although larger feathered dinosaurs have been identified before, none have possessed such complex wings made up of quill pen-like feathers, the team says. Scientists have known for some time that many species of dinosaur had feathers, but most of these were covered with simple filaments that looked more like hair than modern bird feathers.
This latest discovery suggests that winged dinosaurs with larger and more complex feathers were more diverse than previously thought.
The species belonged to a family of feathered carnivores that was widespread during the Cretaceous Period, and lived around 125 million years ago, the team says.
The near-complete skeleton of the animal -- which is remarkably well preserved -- was studied by scientists from the University of Edinburgh and the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences. The fossil reveals dense feathers covered the dinosaur's wings and tail.
The newly discovered species -- named Zhenyuanlong suni -- grew to more than five feet in length. Despite having bird-like wings, it probably could not fly, at least not using the same type of powerful muscle-driven flight as modern birds, researchers say.
It is unclear what function the short wings served. The species may have evolved from ancestors that could fly and used its wings solely for display purposes, in a similar way to how peacocks use their colourful tails, researchers say.
The study is published in the journal Scientific Reports. The research was supported by Natural Science Foundation of China, the European Commission, and the US National Science Foundation.
Dr Steve Brusatte, of the University of Edinburgh's School of GeoSciences, who co-authored the study, said: "This new dinosaur is one of the closest cousins of Velociraptor, but it looks just like a bird. It's a dinosaur with huge wings made up of quill pen feathers, just like an eagle or a vulture. The movies have it wrong -- this is what Velociraptor would have looked like too."
Professor Junchang Lü, of the Institute of Geology, Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences, who led the study, said: "The western part of Liaoning Province in China is one of the most famous places in the world for finding dinosaurs. The first feathered dinosaurs were found here and now our discovery of Zhenyuanlong indicates that there is an even higher diversity of feathered dinosaurs than we thought. It's amazing that new feathered dinosaurs are still being found."
This guy, Carnufex carolinensis, or as he was known the "Carolina Butcher", was the top predator in his corner of the globe, which is now our corner of the globe, before the dinosaurs showed up. Somehow, gators that move around on two feet are even scarier than the ones flat on the ground. Story here.
Apparently, back in dinosaur days these guys ate a fungus related to LSD. I presume you wouldn't want to be around one when it was tripping out. I guess that's why there are all the butterflies in the picture.
The one about how it was a comet and not an asteroid? Forget it. We're back to a Manhattan-sized asteroid. And things got toasty.
A new look at conditions after a Manhattan-sized asteroid slammed into a region of Mexico in the dinosaur days indicates the event could have triggered a global firestorm that would have burned every twig, bush and tree on Earth and led to the extinction of 80 percent of all Earth's species, says a new University of Colorado Boulder study.
Led by Douglas Robertson of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, or CIRES, the team used models that show the collision would have vaporized huge amounts of rock that were then blown high above Earth's atmosphere. The re-entering ejected material would have heated the upper atmosphere enough to glow red for several hours at roughly 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit -- about the temperature of an oven broiler element -- killing every living thing not sheltered underground or underwater.
The CU-led team developed an alternate explanation for the fact that there is little charcoal found at the Cretaceous-Paleogene, or K-Pg, boundary some 66 million years ago when the asteroid struck Earth and the cataclysmic fires are believed to have occurred. The CU researchers found that similar studies had corrected their data for changing sedimentation rates. When the charcoal data were corrected for the same changing sedimentation rates they show an excess of charcoal, not a deficiency, Robertson said.
"Our data show the conditions back then are consistent with widespread fires across the planet," said Robertson, a research scientist at CIRES, which is a joint institute of CU-Boulder and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "Those conditions resulted in 100 percent extinction rates for about 80 percent of all life on Earth."
A paper on the subject was published online this week in theJournal of Geophysical Research-Biogeosciences, a publication of the American Geophysical Union. Co-authors on the study include CIRES Interim Director William Lewis, CU Professor Brian Toon of the atmospheric and oceanic sciences department and the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics and Peter Sheehan of the Milwaukee Public Museum in Wisconsin.
Geological evidence indicates the asteroid collided with Earth about 66 million years ago and carved the Chicxulub crater in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula that is more than 110 miles in diameter. In 2010, experts from 33 institutions worldwide issued a report that concluded the impact at Chicxulub triggered mass extinctions, including dinosaurs, at the K-Pg boundary.
The conditions leading to the global firestorm were set up by the vaporization of rock following the impact, which condensed into sand-grain-sized spheres as they rose above the atmosphere. As the ejected material re-entered Earth's atmosphere, it dumped enough heat in the upper atmosphere to trigger an infrared "heat pulse" so hot it caused the sky to glow red for several hours, even though part of the radiation was blocked from Earth by the falling material, he said.
But there was enough infrared radiation from the upper atmosphere that reached Earth's surface to create searing conditions that likely ignited tinder, including dead leaves and pine needles. If a person was on Earth back then, it would have been like sitting in a broiler oven for two or three hours, said Robertson.
The amount of energy created by the infrared radiation the day of the asteroid-Earth collision is mind-boggling, said Robertson. "It's likely that the total amount of infrared heat was equal to a 1 megaton bomb exploding every four miles over the entire Earth."
A 1-megaton hydrogen bomb has about the same explosive power as 80 Hiroshima-type nuclear bombs, he said. The asteroid-Earth collision is thought to have generated about 100 million megatons of energy, said Robertson.
Some researchers have suggested that a layer of soot found at the K-Pg boundary layer roughly 66 million years ago was created by the impact itself. But Robertson and his colleagues calculated that the amount of soot was too high to have been created during the massive impact event and was consistent with the amount that would be expected from global fires.