Famed in the Jurassic Park films, Velociraptors were members of the dromaeosaurid family. These bipedal, covered with feathers were close to the ancestors of modern birds. Some of these small, but exceptionally fast and agile predators may have even been capable of gliding flight.
The article, published in The Anatomical Record, describes a new species of dromaeosaurids that lived about 120 million years ago - in the middle of the Cretaceous, during the "golden autumn" of the dinosaurs. Paleontologists from China and the United States, led by Ashley Poust of the University of California at Berkeley, named it Wulong bohaiensis and attributed it to the subfamily of microraptors (Microraptorinae) - very close relatives and direct ancestors of birds.
The sample studied by scientists was discovered about 10 years ago in the Jiufotang Formation in Chaoyang Prefecture in northwestern China. The authors note that the fossil print retained feathers on the limbs and tail, which is usually considered a sign of an adult, although many other details of its anatomy, on the contrary, indicate youth.
These dromaeosaurids were slightly larger than a common crow and had a tail about twice the length of their body. The jaws had sharp teeth, and the body was covered with feathers, and the tail ended in a particularly long "plume". Wulong bohaiensis is one of the oldest representatives of the group: for comparison, the same Velociraptor lived about 75 million years ago.