(CNN)Chinese scientists say they have discovered a new dinosaur species, with bat-like wings, that sheds light on how dinosaurs may have evolved into birds.
Based on a fossil specimen discovered in China’s Hebei province a decade ago, scientists estimate the bird-like dinosaur existed for a very short time 160 million years ago during the Jurassic Period, according to a new paper published in scientific journal Nature on Wednesday.
The odd feathered creature discovered in China is thought to have had leathery wings similar to those of bats but never before seen in a dinosaur.
Its feathers were not associated with flight, but Yi qi had a peculiar long rod-like bone extending from each wrist.
Experts think it probably supported a wing membrane, as seen in bats and gliding flying squirrels. Their theory is supported by the discovery of patches of membranous tissue preserved in the fossil remains.
Lead researcher Professor Xing Xu, from the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP) in Beijing, said: “We thought giving this animal a name meaning ‘strange wing’ was appropriate, because no other bird or dinosaur has a wing of the same kind.
“We don’t know if Yi qi was flapping, or gliding, or both, but it definitely evolved a wing that is unique in the context of the transition from dinosaurs to birds.”
The scientists, whose findings are reported in the journal Nature, believe Yi qi was one of nature’s early pioneers of flight – an evolutionary experiment that ultimately failed.