Bat Wings? On Dinosaurs?

There’s speculation of a possible dinosaur/modern bat connection.

Since bats are mammals, few people stopped to consider whether or not they might trace their lineage all the way back to dinosaurs, but the discovery of a pigeon-sized fossil has some people wondering.

Meet Yi Qi

A farmer uncovered the remains in the Tiaojishan Formation, which is located in China’s Hebei Province. Studies indicate that the small, winged animal was a member of the Scansoriopterygidae family. It has been given the Yi qi.

Based on the remains, paleontologists have created computer generated image of what Yi qi. The dinosaur was about the size and shape of a contemporary pigeons. It had a long neck, a bird like head, and teeth. It also had wings, which are what is generating the most interest in this particular species.

Fossilized remains of a winged dinosaur are nothing new. It’s widely accepted that birds evolved from the members of the Scansoriopterygidae family, the same family YI qi belongs to. What is surprising is that Yi qi’s wings don’t look much like bird wings, but bear a strong resemblance to bat wings, it’s almost like they’re an early prototype of what today’s bats use to zip through the night sky.

Not only were the wings devoid of feathers and appeared leathery, like bat wings, they were constructed around a gently curved, rod-like, anomalous bone that was distally tapered. This bone isn’t like anything paleontologists have ever seen before in any of the theropod dinosaurs they’ve studied. Yi qi also has an extremally long third finger. The strange and surprising wing structure is how the name Yi qi was selected. In Mandarin Chinese it means strange wing.

It is also the first-time paleontologists have found evidence of a dinosaur that had both wings constructed out of a leathery membrane and a body covered in feathers.

After entering the data into a computer, researchers were able to run a program that indicates Yi qi would have been able to sustain true flight, though the periods of such would most likely have been very short. Based on what the computer program revealed, researchers believe Yi qi probably used its wings to fly from one tree top to another, or to even fly down to the ground from the tree canopy.

Yi qi is believed to have lived during the Callovian and/or Oxfordian periods.

The New Kid in the Rock

While Yi qi has the distinction of being one of the first dinosaur finds that got people pondering a possible dinosaur/bat connection, it’s not the last.

In September of 2017, the Geological Society London Special Publications caused a stir when it published a paper that described an exciting new find. The paper was all about the Versperopterylus lamadongensis, a newly discovered anurognathid pterosaur. The fossil was discovered in China’s Jiufotang Formation. Unlike Yi qi, which is only a partial fossil, the Versperopterylus lamadongensis is almost complete specimen with a nearly intact skull.

The Versperopterylus lamadongensis’s wings are feature coracoids which measure just a little bit larger than the small dinosaur’s scapula. A comparison of the tibia and the wing phalanx reveal that their the exact same length. There’s no mistaking that there are grooves on the back of the first three wing phalanges. It’s the first of this type of pterosaur to be discovered in China with a very short tail.

The most interesting thing about the find is that this is the first time a pterosaur has been discovered with a reverse toe. Compared to similar species, the toe is backwards. This gives researchers an exciting clue about the Versperopterylus lamadongensis’s living arrangements. The muscle attachments and shape of the toe indicate that the Versperopterylus lamadongensis spent a great deal of their time hanging upside down, possibly from trees.

The newly discovered fossil’s name translates to Dusk-Wing.

As of right now, there’s not any evidence suggesting that bats descended from Yi qi or Versperopterylus lamadongensis, but it’s still fun to wonder if maybe, there isn’t some unexpected evolutionary link.

This post is an exact excerpt from 60 Beautiful Bat Facts

Resources:

Junchang Lü, Qingjin Meng, Baopeng Wang, Di Liu, Caizhi Shen, Yuguang Zhang. “Short note on a new anurognathid pterosaur with evidence of perching behavior from Jianchang of Liaoning Province, China.” Geological Society London Special Publications. 8, September, 2017. Web. http://sp.lyellcollection.org/content/early/2017/09/08/SP455.16

Schira, Jess “60 Beautiful Bat Facts.” 8 January 2018.

“Versperopterylus lamadongensis: A new species of Anurognathid Pterosaur from the Early Cretaceous of Liaoning Province, China.” Sciency Thoughts. 20, November 2017. http://sciencythoughts.blogspot.com/2017/11/versperopterylus-lamadongensis-new.html

 

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