A feathered dinosaur with bat wings. That’s pretty much all you need to know about Yi qi to know that it was one special little dinosaur, a dinosaur that wasn’t going to let a little thing like “not having feathered wings” keep it from soaring through the skies.
Discovered by a farmer eight years ago, Yi qi (Mandarin for “strange wing”) was a scansoriopterygid, a small group of tiny dinosaurs that seemed built to climb trees and had weirdly long fingers. But though they lived in the canopy and were covered with feathers, no scansoriopterygid had been found with wing feathers.
Plenty of dinosaurs did have wing feathers (perhaps you’ve heard of Velociraptor?) Some even had four wings. But Yi and its ilk branched off the feathered dinosaur line just before the dromaeosaurs and modern birds did . . . and they made do with what they had to work with. These tiny dinosaurs (Yi was smaller than a pigeon) may have been among the first to experiment with going airborne, using skin stretched between their longest finger and an odd finger-like bone not found in other dinosaurs.
Unfortunately, reading the paper will cost you $32 (because it’s in Nature, which has built a profitable business around preventing access to scientific knowledge). But you can still read plenty more (for free) about this discovery, either from the always-great David Hone over at the Guardian, or the also-always-great Ed Yong at National Geographic.