HistoryMicroraptor belongs to a group of ‘raptor’ type dinosaurs, more properly known as dromaeosaurids. This group includes Velociraptor and Sinornithosaurus. The discovery of this feathered species has drastically changed our understanding of the appearance of ‘raptor’ dinosaurs.
Many Microraptor fossils preserve both the animal’s bones and feathers. The feathered, wing-like arms of Microraptor were suitable for gliding flight. Its wing feathers had a central vane and an asymmetrical shape, just like the feathers in modern flying birds.
This dinosaur may have used its sharp claws to scramble up the trunks of trees, and then leaped from the canopy, gliding from tree to tree. Microraptor lived in a forested wetland ecosystem known as the Jehol. The Jehol ecosystem was very rich and Microraptor was an opportunistic hunter, feeding on a diverse range of prey such as insects, lizards, and fish. The species was first named in 2000, with its name literally meaning ‘tiny thief’.
Studies of possible preserved color pigments suggest that Microraptor feathers were deep blue-black with an iridescent sheen, similar to the feathers of a crow or raven. In addition to flight, Microraptor may have also used its plumage in mating displays, to regulate temperature, or to cover its eggs.