Asymmetrical fossil feathers fill in timeline of flight

by Mary Caperton Morton
Tuesday, August 15, 2017

To get off the ground and evolve into flying birds, dinosaurs got a lift from asymmetrical feathers, which are more aerodynamic than symmetrical feathers. The discovery of a new species of asymmetrically feathered dinosaur in northeastern China from the Early Cretaceous is helping fill in the timeline of adaptations that led to flight.

The species, named Jianianhualong tengi, is described in a study in Nature Communications from a nearly complete skeleton that has evidence for fossilized asymmetrical feathers. The fossil represents the earliest-known troodontid, a bird-like maniraptoran dinosaur that lived between 145 million and 100 million years ago.

It’s not clear whether J. tengi was capable of flight, as asymmetrical feathers have been found in flying and nonflying modern bird species, the team led by Xing Xu of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing wrote.

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