Two small dinosaurs that developed wings similar to the ones of modern-day bats weren’t able to fly, as they were limited to gliding between the trees present in their natural habitat, according to a new study.
Since they weren’t able to fly like some of their brethren and early birds, the two species became extinct after a few million years. The new information reinforces theories which argue that the ability to fly evolved over time and in different ways among dinosaurs before it was perfected in the case of birds.
Once birds managed to master proper flight, dinosaurs like the Yi and Ambopteryx faced stiff competition. They managed to linger for a few million years, but the presence of predators on the ground and the ability of birds and other small mammals to reach high places pushed them towards extinction.
Both the Yi and the Amboteryx lived in China during the Late Jurassic period, almost 160 million years ago. Since they weigh less than two pounds (or less than one kilogram), they are unusual members of the theropod group, which is the progenitor of modern birds.
A team of researchers analyzed fossils of the two species with the help of laser-stimulated fluorescence, a technique that facilitates the detection of soft tissue traits that can’t be observed in visible light. Computerized models offered the ability to observe how the creatures might have flown, and several variants were tested.
The results were quite interesting as they revealed that the two creatures were limited to gliding, and they didn’t perform two well due to limitations related to their wings. However, the limited gliding ability was useful, as it allowed them to cover small distances and escape predators quickly.
More research work will take place in the future, as scientists want to learn more details about their wings and possible connection to early birds.