LOS ANGELES, July 16 (UPI) -- It's a bird. It's a plane. No, it's the bones of Changyuraptor yangi -- the latest fossil to suggest dinosaurs took to the air before birds.
Changyuraptor yangi, which scientists say had feathers like a bird and was designed like a fighter jet, was the largest dinosaur to take to the skies, and also one of the earliest. The dino -- whose 125-million-year-old remains were recently unearthed in China -- is one of several four-winged species included in the group Microraptorines, which means "tiny raptors."
Changyuraptor yangi and its "four-winged" relatives didn't actually have four wings, but their hind legs were outfitted with feathers that helped guide the raptors flight. According to researchers working in the fossil-rich Liaoning Province of northeastern China, Changyuraptor yangi likely grew up to four feet in length and weighed nearly nine pounds.
"At a foot in length, the amazing tail feathers of Changyuraptor are by far the longest of any feathered dinosaur," lead researcher Luis Chiappe, a paleontologist at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, explained in a press release.
"There's now plenty of evidence to show that birds were descended from dinosaurs, and we're also learning that these dinosaurs were also capable of flight," noted Chiappe.
While it's not clear whether Changyuraptor yangi could take of from the ground or needed to launch from an elevated, perched position, the creatures was more than capable of hunting from the air and likely preyed on birds and fish.
The discovery is detailed in the latest issue of the journal Nature Communications.