Velociraptors looked like 'big fluffy birds from hell', new fossil find suggests

Preserved winged dinosaur, found in China, shows an ancestor of the Velociraptor that seems to have been on the edge of an evolutionary leap

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The Independent Online

Velociraptors might have looked like “big fluffy birds from hell”, that couldn’t fly, according to research based on a new fossil.

Palaeontologists in China have found a close relative of the Velociraptor that has a well-preserved set of bird-like wings — and may have been just about to evolve into a bird. The skeleton is nearly complete and could offer clues to what Velociraptors actually looked like.

Far from the scaly-looking dinosaurs of Jurassic Park, they might instead have looked much weirder — like “big fluffy birds from hell” lead researcher Steve Brusatte told the BBC.

The new find has wings with properly-layered feathers, the team reports. Though it is a dinosaur, it looks more like a turkey or vulture, the team said.

Dr Steve Brusatte, of the University of Edinburgh's school of geosciences, who co-authored the study, said: "This new dinosaur is one of the closest cousins of Velociraptor, but it looks just like a bird.

"It's a dinosaur with huge wings made up of quill pen feathers, just like an eagle or a vulture. The movies have it wrong - this is what Velociraptor would have looked like too."

The new find was dug up in China, and has been named Zhenyuanlong suni — Zhenyuan's dragon — after the man who found the fossil and brought it to be studied.

Professor Junchang Lu, of the Institute of Geology, Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences, who led the study, said: "The western part of Liaoning Province in China is one of the most famous places in the world for finding dinosaurs.

"The first feathered dinosaurs were found here and now our discovery of Zhenyuanlong indicates that there is an even higher diversity of feathered dinosaurs than we thought. It's amazing that new feathered dinosaurs are still being found."

Researchers have published their findings in the journal Scientific Reports.