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Changyuraptor

By EWilloughby
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Changyuraptor yangi is a newly-described microraptorine dromaeosaur dinosaur from the early Cretaceous (Yixian formation) of Liaoning, China. 

The animal would have been around 4 feet long in life, and its fossil shows that it was covered in feathers -- including, as in its smaller cousin Microraptor, a pair of "leg wings" represented by long paired pennaceous feathers on the metatarsals and tibiotarsus. One of Changyuraptor's most unique features is its voluminous tail feathers, and these feathers constitute the longest of any known non-avian dinosaur, with the most distal retrices reaching around 30 cm in length.

Changyuraptor is also by far the largest "four-winged" dinosaur known, and while this might not be as big of a deal as it sounds (given that there aren't very many "four-winged" dinosaurs), it does show that small size wasn't necessarily the gatekeeper to certain volant adaptations. I personally doubt that this animal was doing anything approaching powered flight, but the long tail feathers and multiple sets of long, well-developed lifting surfaces may have been a boon to gliding and controlled descent. The exceptionally long tail feathers therefore might have been used as a sort of "pitch control" device, wherein a large, relatively heavy animal would have needed especially fine-tuned control over rapid falls onto prey or in safe landings from higher ground. As Buzz Lightyear would say, "This isn't flying, it's falling with style!"

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Gouache/watercolor paint on A3-size hot-pressed illustration board, approx. 5-6 hours.

Gang Han et al. 2014. "A new raptorial dinosaur with exceptionally long feathering provides insights into dromaeosaurid flight performance". Nature Communications. 5: 4382. 

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Comments49
anonymous's avatar
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Atlantis536's avatar
Have there been any proven colors for this? In Dinosaur Train, it is depicted as being blue, yellow and red.
PedroSalas's avatar
Hi Emily, I'd like to know why you put a tail-fan in Changyuraptor   but a paired-retrice tail in Zhenyuanlong.
ImpirrenRyRy's avatar
Did it live in forests? I only know that the Gobi Desert was still Desert back then, not of the rest of the continent. If so, they could have perched motionless in trees and dropped on prey. That would be a cool threat in a story about humans back in time. Still, I want them as pets.
chinmoy808's avatar
The area microraptorines inhabited were covered in forests.
ImpirrenRyRy's avatar
True, this could have survived in plains though, I am sure.
ImpirrenRyRy's avatar
I want one so badly.
Terizinosaurus's avatar
y87arrow's avatar
I don't think a Changyuraptor can look better than on this picture here. It's one of those pics where you think "yes, THIS is exactly how it might have looked like back then when it lived". The brown-blue-grey colours also fit nicely.
TheDinoFeed's avatar
YemaYema's avatar
beautifully rendered! Also that's a pretty good time, you're fast as well.
acepredator's avatar
Think all or most raptors can glide now!
Traheripteryx's avatar
It would be so amazing, to see one of those flying!
Great work on the feathers, as always! :D
WhiskerfaceRumpel's avatar
Wow, love the colors on him!  They seem so fitting. 

By the way, was he four feet long with or without the tail feathers?  And is it possible for a raptor even larger than him to be a good glider? 
EWilloughby's avatar
Thanks! The exact length of the fossil - from the nosetip to the very end of the tail fan - is measured at being 132 cm in the paper, so that's around 4 feet 4 inches or so in total length, including the tail feathers! I wouldn't say that a larger dromaeosaur being a good glider is impossible, in that I can't think of any definitive evolutionary constraint that would necessarily have prevented it, but I don't think it's terribly likely, either. After all, even Microraptor was probably not an especially competent glider.
WhiskerfaceRumpel's avatar
You're welcome! 
And thank you greatly for clarifying/answering!!!  It's really appreciated! 
Saberrex's avatar
maybe, but that hasn't stopped me from making a fictional (and modern day) flying Microraptorine called a Glaurung. saberrex.deviantart.com/art/Gl… . it's big too; close to the limit of avian flight weight, being condor sized.
EWilloughby's avatar
You're in luck: Glaurung, being condor-sized, isn't necessarily at the limit of avian flight weight: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pelagorn… The relevant question is probably less a matter of size alone and more a matter of what other morphological features of microraptorines would have made true powered flight pretty difficult to accomplish (like the lack of a triosseal canal). An animal the size of a condor would have had no trouble gliding with the proper aerodynamic equipment. As I've commented elsewhere, the physical requirements for gliding and powered flight are extraordinarily different in nature.
Saberrex's avatar
that is true indeed.
Dontknowwhattodraw94's avatar
This looks very beautiful with those colours and the details as well :)
GhostInThePines's avatar
This "four-winged" stuff always confuses me. In modern pigeons, long leg feathers are usually a hindrance to movement and flight. I have trouble seeing how the "traditional" positioning of these leg feathers would work on an extinct animal unless its hip sockets have some weird configurations.
anonymous's avatar
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