National Geographic reveals the real-life parable of a dinosaur that, according to the evidence, had four wings, yet never flew:
The newly named species, Serikornis sungei, adds to the ranks of dinosaurs that effectively had four wings, thanks to heavily feathered hindlimbs and forelimbs. But in a twist for paleontologists, the evidence suggests that Serikornis couldn’t fly.
“The feathering of Serikornis shows for the first time a complete absence of barbules—that is, the microstructures that allow feathers to resist air pressure during wing beats,” says study leader Ulysse Lefèvre, a paleontologist at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences in Brussels.
Rather than flapping or even gliding through the trees, these animals would have likely spent their lives scampering around on the forest floor.
Lefèvre and his team named the new species in honor of Sun Ge, the scientist at the Paleontological Museum of Liaoning who made the fossil available for study, and for the presumed silky texture of its body covering. Serikos means “silk” in ancient Greek.
In life, the newly described dinosaur would have been about 1.5 feet long with tiny, sharp teeth and a body covered in downy, wispy feathers. Its limbs, however, would have sported several other kinds of feathers, including long pennaceous feathers with central vanes that are more like the plumage we often see on modern birds.
Lefèvre concedes it’s possible these little dinosaurs could parachute to the ground from the trees—but that’s still a far cry from flight. “The plumage of Silky does not allow it to perform modern flight but can surely help slow its descent,” he says.
Yep. Prehistoric parachute pants.