The Four-Winged Dinosaur
Built To Fly
Launch interactive

Built To Fly

With its four wings and a long, bony tail, Microraptor was unlike any bird alive today. This is because it was a dinosaur—one that evolved long after the first known bird, Archaeopteryx, split off from the dinosaur family tree. Earlier dinosaurs, common ancestors to both Microraptor and Archaeopteryx, had already formed many of the physiological traits needed for getting airborne, such as feathers and light, hollow bones. With these structures in place, both animals were able to separately take further evolutionary steps by forming wings on their arms (and in Microraptor, legs) and getting off the ground. In this interactive, learn more about the evolution of gliding and flight, and of birds, by comparing the skeletons of Archaeopteryx, Microraptor, and Deinonychus, one of Microraptor's closest non-flying relatives.—Rima Chaddha

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© | Created February 2008