SEVERE WX : High Wind Warning - Wind Advisory View Alerts

'Dancing dragon' feathered dinosaur fossil discovered in China

A new dinosaur species called Wulong bohaiensis is offering researchers clues into the relationship between bird species and dinosaurs.

Posted: Jan 22, 2020 3:20 AM
Updated: Jan 22, 2020 3:20 AM

About 120 million years ago, a "dancing dragon" lived in China's Jehol Province. The discovery of a fossil belonging to the small feathered dinosaur is new to science and helps bridge the gap between dinosaurs and birds.

Researchers named the dinosaur Wulong bohaiensis, which translates to "a dancing dragon."

The dinosaur was about the size of a raven but double its length with a long, bony tail. Its entire body was covered with feathers, complete with two plumes at the tail's end.

Despite its small size, it had a fierce, narrow face and a mouth full of sharp teeth. Like a bird, it had small, light bones and wing-like forelimbs. And there were also a number of feathers on its legs.

The fossil was initially discovered in the fossil-filled Jehol Province a decade ago by a farmer and was placed in China's Dalian Natural History Museum.

Researchers, including Ashley Poust, a postdoctoral researcher at the San Diego Natural History Museum, later analyzed the fossil (at the time, Poust was still a student at Montana State University).

The findings were published last week in the journal The Anatomical Record.

"The new dinosaur fits in with an incredible [range] of feathered, winged animals that are closely related to the origin of birds," Poust, the study's author, said. "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."

This dinosaur was a juvenile when it died, according to its bones, but its feathers resembled that of a mature adult. This suggests that the feathers grew quickly, unlike modern birds, which take time to grow their mature feathers.

"Either the young dinosaurs needed these tail feathers for some function we don't know about, or they were growing their feathers really differently from most living birds," Poust said.

The dinosaur was an early relative of Velociraptors, which lived 75 million years ago. Its contemporaries would have been Microraptors, small feathered dinosaurs that resembled birds.

The researchers actually sliced into several bones from the fossil and studied them with microscopes to understand the different regions of the skeleton. They also compared it to a close relative that also appeared more mature, known as the Sinornithosaurus.

Surprisingly, that dinosaur was also still growing when it died. The researchers said that histology, or cutting up the bones, was the only way for them to truly know the life stage of the dinosaurs when they died.

"We're talking about animals that lived twice as long ago as T. rex, so it's pretty amazing how well-preserved they are," Poust said. "It's really very exciting to see inside these animals for the first time."

Fossils from the Jehol Province have painted a portrait of the diverse life that once flourished there. It's an area in northeastern China full of exceptionally preserved fossil discoveries that has been studied for the past 90 years.

Researchers learned that birds, pterosaurs and bird-like dinosaurs all lived in the environment at the same time. This is also when flowering plants initially began to flourish.

"There was a lot of flying, gliding and flapping around these ancient lakes," Poust said. "As we continue to discover more about the diversity of these small animals, it becomes interesting how they all might have fit into the ecosystem. It was an alien world, but with some of the earliest feathers and earliest flowers, it would have been a pretty one."

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 156287

Reported Deaths: 2252
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah31935542
Washington21311212
Marion18541285
Clackamas13426183
Lane10325129
Jackson8489114
Umatilla767882
Deschutes597561
Yamhill379168
Linn360157
Malheur335358
Polk307343
Klamath279855
Douglas252755
Josephine236553
Benton234817
Jefferson196628
Coos152420
Union129519
Columbia127421
Wasco122126
Lincoln113620
Hood River106929
Morrow104914
Clatsop7776
Crook77618
Baker6639
Curry4296
Tillamook4212
Lake3786
Harney2776
Grant2251
Wallowa1425
Gilliam541
Sherman530
Wheeler221
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 3582320

Reported Deaths: 53083
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles119601721676
Riverside2904983849
San Bernardino2870552959
Orange2617983966
San Diego2613533342
Santa Clara1110761798
Kern103756915
Fresno957851451
Sacramento937901498
Alameda809501271
Ventura77952870
San Joaquin671231150
Contra Costa62931695
Stanislaus56433953
Tulare48114768
Monterey42335329
San Mateo39148521
San Francisco34387422
Santa Barbara32147420
Solano30216165
Merced29264407
Sonoma28261301
Imperial26926638
Kings22091220
Placer19911232
San Luis Obispo19751238
Madera15523214
Santa Cruz14736183
Marin13285198
Yolo12867185
Shasta11054179
Butte11007167
El Dorado9195100
Napa908072
Sutter889998
Yuba577638
San Benito577061
Lassen562324
Tehama510452
Nevada398874
Tuolumne396659
Mendocino382643
Amador347441
Humboldt323033
Lake316941
Glenn223223
Colusa214013
Calaveras191849
Siskiyou178414
Inyo132137
Mono12144
Del Norte10085
Plumas6536
Modoc4604
Mariposa3957
Trinity3735
Sierra1000
Alpine820
Unassigned00
Medford
Clear
48° wxIcon
Hi: 65° Lo: 34°
Feels Like: 46°
Brookings
Partly Cloudy
52° wxIcon
Hi: 54° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 52°
Medford
Partly Cloudy
48° wxIcon
Hi: 43° Lo: 22°
Feels Like: 46°
Medford
Partly Cloudy
48° wxIcon
Hi: 65° Lo: 32°
Feels Like: 46°
Klamath Falls
Partly Cloudy
46° wxIcon
Hi: 50° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 39°
Strong south winds Thursday
KDRV Radar
KDRV Fire Danger
KDRV Weather Cam

Community Events