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Paleontologists Discover Feathered Dinosaur Fossil

Credit: Reuters

So tiny, yet so graceful.

A new species of dinosaur fossil has been uncovered in China’s Jehol Province. Its small, feathered frame has provided another link in archaeology’s never-ending mission to link the lineages of dinosaurs and modern birds. Because the fossil’s whimsical pose, the researchers decided to name it “Wulong bohaiensis,” or “dancing dragon.”

Size-wise, the Wulong is about as large as a common raven, though one of its standout features is the long, bony tail jutting out the back. It possessed angular front limbs with a bird’s trademark light bones, as well as many feathers. Based on its talons and sharp teeth, it can be assumed that the Wulong was a predator of some sort, though considering its size, its prey was likely only small animals and fish.

Postdoctoral researcher Ashley Poust, who studied the fossil in-depth, said that “The new dinosaur fits in with an incredible [range] of feathered, winged animals that are closely related to the origin of birds. Studying specimens like this not only shows us the sometimes surprising paths that ancient life has taken, but also allows us to test ideas about how important bird characteristics, including flight, arose in the distant past.”

Here is an artist’s rendition of what the Wulong may have looked like:

Credit: Erick Toussaint

Cute, isn’t it? Based on previous fossils found in the Jehol Province, the area was once quite the cornucopia of diverse life. Birds, pterosaurs, and a variety of dinosaurs all lived side-by-side there millions of years ago. Coincidentally, the Jehol Province is also where some very early examples of flowering plants were discovered.