Our understanding of dinosaurs is moving at light speed.
What seemed quite bizarre only a decade or so ago — namely, that many dinosaurs actually had feathers — is now an accepted fact. And thanks to incredible fossils being discovered every year, our ideas of what dinosaurs could and could not be is constantly being challenged. (Never mind other prehistoric creatures!)
As we've stated before, few places on Earth are as rich in new fossils as China. We've witnessed ancient gliding mammals being revealed to the world here. And now, we're being introduced to Ambopteryx longibrachium (say am-BOH-ter-iks lawn-gee-BRAH-kee-um).
A bat-winged dinosaur.
Evolution of flight
Ambopteryx was more than just a bat-winged dinosaur — it was bat-sized, too. It measured 33 centimetres (13 inches) long, which is similar to the size of a flying fox. The critter lived about 163 million years ago, which is in the middle of the Jurassic period. This makes it a little bit older than Archeopteryx, which has been commonly referred to for years as the world's first bird.
Today, scientists argue about when birds began and dinosaurs ended. While Ambopteryx doesn't solve that debate, it does prove that the evolution of flight in dinosaurs had many different branches — some successful, some not so much.
Flying solo... for now
At this point, this bat-winged dinosaur is somewhat alone.
There aren't other fossils of dinosaurs that had wings with thin membranes stretched across elongated fingers. Keep in mind here that pterosaurs were not actually dinosaurs and that their wings were built differently to bats and Ambopteryx.
But Ambopteryx isn't an ancient bat either. It is simply its own thing. That is, until more fossils are discovered. Perhaps our new friend is just the tip of the batberg? We can't wait to see what science has left to show us.
Enjoy a recreation of what this unique creature might have looked like alive in the video below.
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