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Largest four-winged dinosaur discovered in China

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Changyuraptor yangi was about 51 inches from snout to tail

Stephanie Abramowicz/Dinosaur Institute, NHM

At some point in the age of the dinosaurs, evolution diverged, and we were left with the infamous velociraptor and the not-so-intimidating microraptor, a close descendent of modern birds. The latest addition to that group is Changyuraptor yangi (C. yangi for short), a newly discovered four-winged animal that weighed about nine pounds and measured 51 inches from snout to tail.

Like someone stapled feathers onto an overweight lizard

Unearthed in China, C. yangi looks slightly less elegant now — like someone stapled feathers onto an overweight lizard — but the 125-million-year-old fossil can provide some clues into the evolution of flight, according to a paper on the animal published in Nature Communications. C. yangi likely used its hind wings for pitch control, according to the paper, letting it slow down to prepare for a landing.

Although feathered dinosaurs have been turning up since 1996 — frequently, like this one, in what's now China's Liaoning province — C. yangi is the largest four-winged dinosaur discovered yet. Researchers assumed a small body was required for flight, but C. yangi, four times as heavy as many of it cousins, expands that definition.

It was also a meat-eater, but doesn't sound especially vicious; one of the paper's authors told the Guardian it was like "a big turkey with a really long tail."