Microraptor

Name: Microraptor ‭(‬Small thief‭)‬.
Phonetic: My-crow-rap-tor.
Named By: Xu Xing et al‭ ‬-‭ ‬2000.
Synonyms: Archaeoraptor, Cryptovolans.
Classification: Chordata,‭ ‬Reptilia,‭ ‬Dinosauria,‭ ‬Saurischia,‭ ‬Theropoda,‭ ‬Dromaeosauridae,‭ ‬Microraptoria,‭ ‬Microraptorinae.
Species: M.‭ ‬zhaoianus‭ (‬type‭), M. gui, M. hanqingi‬.
Type: Carnivore.
Size: 1‭ ‬meter long.
Known locations: China,‭ ‬Liaoning Province.
Time period: Aptian of the Cretaceous.
Fossil representation: Approximately‭ ‬300‭ ‬remains of individuals.

       Microraptor was first presented to the world as part of the composite fossil called Archaeoraptor,‭ ‬where the tail of a Microraptor was added to the upper body of a Yanornis.‭ ‬Archaeoraptor was a scandalous fake that made headlines around the world,‭ ‬but in the aftermath of this,‭ ‬Microraptor would become known to science.
       Because Arcaheoraptor was found to be a fake before it was ever officially named it was never an officially recognised genus.‭ ‬In fact its full name,‭ ‬Archaeoraptor liaoningensis,‭ ‬was printed before it was officially granted as a recognised specimen.‭ ‬In the wake of the discovery of Archaeoraptor being a fake,‭ ‬the avian paleontologists Storrs L.‭ ‬Olson tried to get the name Archaeoraptor assigned to the part that was from Microraptor to remove the Archaeoraptor taint from the palaeornithological record.
       However Xu Xing,‭ ‬one of the palaeontologists who was part of the Arhcaeoraptor study team,‭ ‬had already found the counter slab and further remains,‭ ‬naming them Microraptor zhaoianus.‭ ‬Although Olson was first,‭ ‬he named the Microraptor part as a lectotype,‭ ‬a name that is taken from a group of specimens of the same name.‭ ‬But remember,‭ ‬the name Archaeoraptor was never officially recognised,‭ ‬and the specimen was only named as such in the media which does not count.‭ ‬As such no part of Archaeoraptor could be assigned the name as a lectotype,‭ ‬and it is for this reason Xu's name and description has gained wider acceptance‭ ‬and is now used the world over.

       Microraptor is very special and is often called a‭ '‬four-winged‭' ‬dromaeosaur.‭ ‬This is because not only‭ ‬did Microraptor have extensive feather coverage over its arms,‭ ‬it also has a similar extent of feather growth on its legs too.‭ ‬Although not a flyer like a true bird would be,‭ ‬Microraptor may have been able to use these feathered areas along with its small size and light build to glide across the tree canopies of the forests of Cretaceous China.‭ ‬As an arboreal dinosaur,‭ ‬Microraptor may well have lived like a bird. As a living animal,‭ ‬Microraptor is thought to have been most active at night as evidenced by the scleral rings.‭ ‬Stomach contents have also been preserved,‭ ‬revealing that smaller mammals formed at least a part of Microraptor's diet.
       How Microraptor moved through the air is quite interesting.‭ ‬Initially it was thought that the arms and legs would have been held at the same level,‭ ‬and perhaps overlaid one another.‭ ‬However in‭ ‬2005‭ ‬the palaeontologist Sankar Chattrerjee said that an overlaid posture was not anatomically possible ‬and instead proposed what has been termed the‭ '‬biplane method‭'‬.‭ ‬The biplane method is where the hind legs are held at a different height to the arms so that when viewed from the front,‭ ‬Microraptor would‭ ‬look like it had two pairs of wings. Chatterjee also constructed computer model that demonstrated Microraptor actually being capable of powered level flight,‭ ‬and if the living creature did indeed do this,‭ ‬Microraptor would have had quite a considerable range when airborne.
       Other researchers have done their own studies on the flight ability of Microraptor,‭ ‬and while some of these recognise the‭ '‬biplane‭' ‬method as possible,‭ ‬some consider it to have been inefficient‭ ‬and suggested that Microraptor had a different orientation when flying.‭ ‬What can also be considered is that Microraptor may not have had just one method of gliding‭ ‬and may have adapted different configurations to changing needs.

Further reading
- The smallest known non-avian theropod dinosaur. Nature 408:705-708. - X. Xu, Z. Zhou, & X. Wang - 1999.
- New Specimens of Microraptor zhaoianus (Theropoda: Dromaeosauridae) from Northeastern China. - American Museum Novitates, 3381: 44pp. - S. H. Hwang, M. A. Norell, Q. Ji & K. Gao - 2002.
- Four-winged dinosaurs from China. - Nature, 421(6921): 335-340. - X. Xu, Z. Zhou, X. Wang, X. Kuang, F. Zhang & X. Du - 2003.
- Biplane wing planform and flight performance of the feathered dinosaur Microraptor gui. - Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 104(5): 1576-1580. - S. Chatterjee & R. J. Templin - 2007.
- The winged non-avian dinosaur Microraptor fed on mammals: implications for the Jehol biota ecosystem. - Program and Abstracts. 70th Anniversary Meeting Society of Vertebrate Paleontology. - Hans Larsson, David Hone, Alexander T. Dececchi, Corwin Sullivan & Xu Xing - 2010.
- Distorted Microraptor specimen is not ideal for understanding the origin of avian flight. - Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, USA. - Stephen L. Brusatte & Jason Brougham - 2010.
- The extent of the preserved feathers on the four-winged dinosaur Microraptor gui under ultraviolet light. - PLoS ONE, 5(2): e9223. - D. W. E. Hone, H. Tischlinger, X. Xu & Z. Zhang - 2010.
- Model tests of gliding with different hindwing configurations in the four-winged dromaeosaurid Microraptor gui. - Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, USA, 107: 2972–2976. - D. E. Alexander, E. Gong, L. D. Martin, D. A. Burnham & A. R. Falk - 2010.
- Additional specimen of Microraptor provides unique evidence of dinosaurs preying on birds. - Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 108 (49): 19662–19665. - Jingmai O'Connor, Zhonghe Zhou, & Xing Xu - 2011.
- Reconstruction of Microraptor and the Evolution of Iridescent Plumage. - Science 335: 1215–1219. - Quanguo Li - 2012
- Piscivory in the feathered dinosaur Microraptor. - Evolution vol67. - Lida Xing, W. Scott Persons, Phil R. Bell, Xing Xu, Jianping Zhang, Tetsuto Miyashita, Fengping Wang & Philip J. Currie - 2013.



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