Chinese scientists have discovered a "batman dinosaur" - a small dinosaur that lived 160 million years ago and had featherless wings like bats.
The research, conducted by scientists from the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing as well as Linyi University in Shandong province, was published by Nature magazine on Friday.
Scientists restructured the image of the small dinosaur named "Qiyi", which means fantastic wing in English, after scanning a specimen with CT devices and electron microscopy.
Qiyi has a unique look with stubby head, long fingers and threadlike feather, which is quite different from the feather of any existing bird.
The most eye-catching feature of Qiyi is a rod-like bone, a wrist commonly found with flying tetrapods like bats, but had never been found on dinosaur fossils.
"We spent quite some time to identify the body structure of Qiyi, because the specimen is so different. At first we did not have the slightest idea about what was the rod-like bone," said Xu Xing, an author of the thesis.
A researcher in Xu's team found descriptions on the rod-like bone when he was carrying out another research on flying vertebrates. He informed Xu about his finding immediately.
Analysis on Qiyi's flying ability shows it was capable of flying short distance between trees, or flying from tree tops to the ground.
"Living in the mid period of Jurassic, the dinosaur Qiyi could be a pioneer in the evolution of flying ability," said Zheng Xiaoting, a co-author of the thesis. "Qiyi proves that the prehistoric life had various attempts in developing flying ability, many went into the dead ends, though the flying mode of existing birds seems to be the only one survived to date."
The origin of birds has been a fruitful research field in China. The top 10 breakthroughs 2014 published by Science magazine listed China's contribution in this field side by side with the first man-made probe landing on a comet.