Velociraptor cousin dubbed a ‘fluffy feathered poodle from hell’

16 Jul 2015

A 125-million-year-old creature dug up in China has been named Zhenyuanlong, and has been called a “fluffy feathered poodle from hell” by palaeontologists.

The six-foot carnivore was quick, long and covered in hair-like feathers, with quills on its wings and a long tail. It is the largest winged dinosaur discovered to date and is a cousin of the velociraptor.

For those of you that don’t know, velociraptors – which lived 50 million years after this horror poodle – could open doors, hunt in packs, be trained like dogs and save humans from bigger dinosaurs (according to a documentary I saw called Jurassic Park 1, 2 and 4).

“Zhenyuanlong was a dinosaur that really looked like a bird,” said University of Edinburgh paleontologist Steve Brusatte, who collaborated with Chinese paleontologist Junchang Lü.

“You wouldn’t think of it differently than a turkey or an emu or a big chicken,” added Brusatte, whose report is published in Scientific Reports.

Zhenyuanlong new dinosaurs

The discovered Zhenyuanlong, via Lü and Brusatte

It was Brusatte that dubbed the beasts fluffy feathered poodles from hell, and we support him. However, an issue arises in that the researchers believe Zhenyuanlong was flightless, despite its obvious bird qualities.

“When you see a dinosaur like this that’s pretty big, and has these short arms and bird-like wings, it begs that question: what are wings really for? We used to think pretty much anything that had wings was flying, but that’s not so clear now,” he said.

Dromaeosaurids are among the closest relatives to modern-day birds. Most of these are small-bodied, but some of them, still feathered, were far larger. And it is thought that many could not fly.

The paper looks at this in relation to feather evolution, and what indeed feathers were for.

Zhenyuanlong was, like a velociraptor, a dromaeosaurid, with its lineage illustrated here:

Zhenyuanlong-family-tree Dinosaurs

Main image via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic