Early dinosaur may have flown like a bat

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Early dinosaur may have flown like a bat

Test your dinosaur knowledge: The creature depicted here is a) the only known dino with wings like those of a bat; b) lived right around the time of the earliest known birds; or c) has the shortest name ever given to a dinosaur. If you said “all three,” you are correct. This 160-million-year-old dino, called Yi qi (“strange wing” in Mandarin Chinese, pronounced “ee chee”) and discovered in northeastern China, weighed just under 400 grams and belonged to a group of pigeon-sized dinosaurs closely related to the first birds (like the 150-million-year-old Archaeopteryx). But unlike any other known bird or dino, Yi qi had a long, stiff, slightly curved rod projecting from each of its wrists, made of either bone or calcified cartilage. The team thinks that these rods supported wings made of skin, because patches of a membranous, soft-tissue material were found stretched between the long rods and the shorter fingers of its forelimbs. Although no dinos or birds have these rodlike bones, flying squirrels and bats do have similar structures, as did the prehistoric flying reptiles known as pterosaurs. Thus, Yi qi could also likely fly, the team reports online today in Nature, but whether it was a glider or capable of flapping-powered flight is not yet clear.