The Four-Winged Dinosaur
Wind Tunnel Test
Launch interactive

Wind Tunnel Test

In 2000, farmers in northeastern China found a fossil unlike any described before. Microraptor, a dinosaur about the size of a goose, had four fully formed wings—two on its arms, like birds, and, strangely, two on its legs. After inspecting its reconstructed skeleton, experts established that it was incapable of flying like modern birds but may have used its feathered limbs to glide from tree to tree. Seven years after its discovery, Chinese paleontologist Xu Xing and engineers from Brown University's Flight Mechanics Laboratory teamed up to determine how it may have moved through the air. The scientists conducted a series of wind-tunnel tests on a life-size Microraptor model and graphed their results. In this interactive based on their findings, conduct your own virtual wind-tunnel experiment and see for yourself how this pint-sized dinosaur likely glided.—David Levin

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© | Created February 2008