By Ed Young
Two years ago, a farmer from Wubaiding Village in northeast China came across a beautiful fossil. The only fossil animals that had ever been found at this site were a pair of salamanders, but when Min Wang from the Chinese Academy of Sciences saw the new specimen, he was sure it was a dinosaur.
Studying the beautifully preserved and nigh-complete skeleton, Wang took note of the creature’s sparrow-sized body, the quill-like feathers on its neck, and its stubby tail. But when he looked more closely at the left arm, he saw a thin bone coming down from its wrist—a rod as long as the entire forearm, but not jointed like a finger. “I shouted, and my heartbeat elevated,” he says.
He knew he had found another bat-winged dinosaur.
Hold your arm out to the side, palm facing forward. Imagine a bony rod extending downward from your wrist. Now imagine that rod supports a membrane that stretches from your fingertips to your side. That’s how Wang saw his new dinosaur—a feathered animal with a pair of bat-like wings. He named it Ambopteryx longibranchus from the Latin for “both wings, long upper arm.”
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