Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Microraptor gui was a small, bird-like dinosaur related to the dromaeosaurs. It lived during the early Cretaceous. Like Archaeopteryx, it demonstrates the close evolutionary relationship between birds and dinosaurs, as it had long feathers on its limbs and tail. Two species have been named, M. zhaoianus and M. gui. It has recently been suggested that all of the specimens belong to a single species, which is properly called M. zhaoianus.
Microraptor was about 77cm long from its nose to the tip of its tail. Like its close relative Cryptovolans (possibly a junior synonym of Microraptor), Microraptor had long feathers on both its 'arms' and its 'legs', which has led to it being called a 'four-winged dinosaur'.
It has been proposed by Chinese scientists that the animal glided, rather than flew properly. However, close studies of the Berlin specimen of the primitive bird Archaeopteryx show that it too, had flight feathers on its hind legs, albeit shortened. Many scientists now think that all basal avians had feathers on their hind legs, and that they were used like the tail feathers of present birds for maintaining balance and changing direction in the air.
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