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Small-Winged Dinosaurs Had Worse Flying Performance than Chickens

Small-Winged Dinosaurs Had Worse Flying Performance than Chickens

Wednesday, 28 October, 2020 - 08:30

The discovery of two small dinosaurs with bat-like wings a few years ago was a paleontologist's dream. Just how flight evolved in birds is something we're still trying to nail down. But a team of researchers has now pointed out that just because you have wings, it doesn't necessarily mean you're actually any good at flying. In a recent study, the team found that the two dinosaurs had flying capabilities considerably worse than a chicken.

Yi qi and Ambopteryx longibrachium are two species of dinosaurs that lived around 160 million years ago, both of which had unusually elongated fingers, and a skin membrane stretching between them, similar to a bat's wing. When first discovered, the researchers observed some characteristics indicating they were gliding creatures, but the new study led by a Chinese-US team, and published in the iScience journal, found that they were unable to fly. It also concluded that the two dinosaurs discovered in 2015, really weren't good at getting their little feet off the trees they lived in.

Using laser-stimulated fluorescence imaging, the team's analysis of the fossils was able to pick up tiny details in soft-tissue that you can't see with normal light. Then the team modeled how the dinosaurs might have flown, adjusting for things such as weight, wingspan, and muscle placement (all stuff we can't tell just from the fossils).

"We found that Yi qi and Ambopteryx longibrachium were likely arboreal, highly unlikely to have any form of powered flight, and had significant deficiencies in flapping-based locomotion and limited gliding abilities," explained first author, biologist Thomas Dececchi from Mount Marty University in a report published Monday on the Science Alert website.

"So, according to our findings, we're looking at flying capabilities considerably worse than a chicken, perhaps worse than the flightless New Zealand parrot, the kakapo, which is also mostly limited to gliding from trees, but can at least flap to control descent," he added.

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