Microraptor gui – A Dromaeosauridae with Attitude
The dinosaur known as Microraptor (Microraptor gui) is one of the smallest dinosaurs known in the fossil record, with some specimens having a body length less than ten centimetres. Known from the finely grained Cretaceous sediments of the Liaoning province of northern China. The short, stiff body was covered in primitive feathers and this tiny dinosaur had asymmetrical flight feathers on both its relatively long arms and legs. These fossils provide important evolutionary evidence between the dinosaurs and birds (Aves).
An Illustration of Microraptor (Microraptor gui)
Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur
In the picture, two Microraptors are displaying to each other, their bright, colours make them very visible in the dark understorey of the Cretaceous forest. Analysis of the claws on the toes and hands show that they were sharp and highly curved. These claws would have made very effective grappling hooks to help this little creature scale the trunks of trees. How much time it spent in the trees is very much open to debate and extremely difficult to prove given the fossil data available. However, it was very well adapted to an arboreal existence and with a number of terrestrial predators lurking in the forest, the branches of trees might have been a very safe place to be.
A recent study using computer modelling revealed that as well as being an effective glider, anatomically Microraptor was probably capable of short-bursts of powered flight. This four-winged wonder could have safely “perched” on the branches of trees, picking off insects from the leaves whilst being safe from attack from the larger dinosaurs that roamed the forest floor – it was a dromaeosaur with attitude.