Scientists have unearthed the remains of a short and feathery-winged dinosaur and found it to be a relative of the Velociraptor popularized in the Jurassic Park franchise. They called it the "fluffy feathered poodle from hell."
Paleontologists from the University of Edinburgh in the UK and the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences in Beijing found a nearly complete dinosaur fossil, the largest yet discovered to have a well-preserved set of bird-like wings, from the Early Cretaceous Period of China.
The discovery, which was dug up in Liaoning Province in northeastern China, was given a genus and species completely new from other dromaeosaurid.
The researchers named the newly discovered species Zhenyuanlong suni and published their findings in Scientific Reports on July 16.
"This new dinosaur is one of the closest cousins of Velociraptor, but it looks just like a bird," said Dr. Steve Brusatte, from the School of GeoSciences at Edinburgh and co-author of the study.
He further explained that, unlike scaly reptilian monsters in the popular Jurassic Park films, the Velociraptor would have looked like the Zhenyuanlong suni, a "feisty little feathered poodle from hell."
According to the researchers, the species has a length of more than five feet, with its wings and tail covered by dense feathers. Even when the feathered carnivore lived as far back as 125 million years ago, the researchers were able to study an almost complete skeleton.
The team learned further that dinosaurs with larger and more complex feathers were more diverse. The Zhenyuanlong suni had wings shorter than those of other dinosaurs in the same family, but the wings were covered by layers of large quill pen-like feathers. While other dinosaurs would have had wings covered in hair-like filaments, this species is the only dinosaur known to have bird-like feathers.
These quill pen-like feathers on the Zhenyuanlong suni's wings were, however, not used in flight. The researchers said that the species may have had ancestors that could fly, but would have later evolved into the flightless, short-winged dinosaur.