A newly identified species of dinosaur has revealed that Velociraptors were not smooth skinned as depicted in Jurassic Park but were actually covered in feathers. This close relative of the raptor, called Zhenyuanlong, lived 125 million years ago in China and is the largest fossil ever discovered to have such a well-preserved set of bird-like wings.
“This new dinosaur is one of the closest cousins of Velociraptor, but it looks just like a bird. The movies have it wrong – this is what Velociraptor would have looked like too,” says Edinburgh University’s Steve Brusatte.
Although feathered dinosaur fossils have been uncovered in the past, Zhenyuanlong is the first to possess multiple layers of quill pen-like feathers, the same as those found on modern birds. This suggests that winged dinosaurs were more diverse than previously thought.
“Our discovery of Zhenyuanlong indicates that there is an even higher diversity of feathered dinosaurs than we thought. It’s amazing that new feathered dinosaurs are still being found,” says the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences' Junchang Lü.
Despite having wings, researchers do not think that Zhenyuanlong was able to fly, though it may have evolved from a species that could. It’s more likely that Zhenyualong only used their wings for display purposes, similar to the way tail feathers are used by male peacocks.
So next time you’re watching Jurassic Park, impress your friend by pointing out that the Velociraptors should actually be covered in feathers.