|1st Species||Microraptor zhaoianus|
|2nd Species||Microraptor gui|
|3rd Species||Microraptor hanqingi|
|Time Range||120 mya|
|Name Meaning||Tiny thief|
|Physical Dimensions||1 meter long|
Microraptor is a dromaeosaurid theropod dinosaur from the Early Cretaceous of China. It was named in 2000 by Xu Xing and his associates. It was yet another of the of the first confirmed feathered non-avian dinosaurs to be found, leading way to yet another era of discoveries like it; as well as this, it is one of the most extensively-studied non-avian theropods, even being studied to the point where we know its color.
Microraptor was a very bird-like dromaeosaur with a sleek, streamlined body, long legs with a sickle-shaped claw on each foot, long arms with 3 long fingers on each hand, a long tail, a moderately long neck, and a long, bird-like head with a mouth containing lots of teeth; as well as this, its arms bore large, bird-like flight feathers, and practically served as wings that it could fly around with. Perhaps the most defining trait of this dinosaur was the many large flight feathers attached to its long legs, which had seemingly allowed them to take up the role of a second pair of wings; this is what gives it its popular moniker, "the four-winged dinosaur". Most of its body (excluding its feet and snout) would have been covered in long, vaned feathers; its body would have been an iridescent black in color.
Microraptor was a predator, preying on lizards, small mammals, primitive birds, and fish. Its sickle claw was used for restraining smaller prey, while its sharp, recurved teeth were used to get a hold of struggling prey (especially fish, which were a major part of its diet).
Microraptor was previously thought to have been an arboreal theropod that used its wings to glide from tree to tree like a flying squirrel, solely on the basis that the branching feathers on its legs would have been a detriment to ground movement; this was later put into question, as its wing loading was found out to be too narrow to successfully glide down to the ground without hurting itself, and its anatomy was more similar to those of ground birds (in a similar case to Archaeopteryx), having very few adaptations for an arboreal lifestyle. In fact, Microraptor's leg feathers may have not been overly detrimental for ground movement (depending on how they were oriented), and it had many adaptations that allowed it to fly better than most primitive birds at the time, such as a fused sternum, long flight feathers, and a relatively curved shoulder girdle (not as curved as that of a modern bird, but still enough for the wings to raise themselves to a near vertical position); since bird flight evolved from wing-assisted slope running rather than arboreal gliding, it is likely that Microraptor would taken to the air by running up a steep slope while flapping its wings before finally entering an airborne phase. When flying around, it would have used its feathery legs as a sort of aerodynamic stabilizer in order to increase its deftness in the air; the prevalent theory as to how exactly they were used is that they were sprawled out from the body and held out like a second pair of wings, although it is also hypothesized that they were tucked below the body like a sort of rudder (since whether it was able to sprawl its legs or not is still up for debate). A comparison of its sclerotic rings to those of modern reptiles and birds indicates that it was nocturnal; this is often heavily questioned due to the fact that many modern birds that have iridescent feathers like the theropod are diurnal, but it is not impossible, mainly because those birds are foraging omnivores, whereas the dinosaur was a fully active predator.
In popular cultureEdit
Microraptor was first introduced to the public in the 3rd episode of the 2006 TV series Prehistoric Park, where it is depicted as a harmless, bird-like arboreal glider that becomes helpless when on solid ground; as well as this, it is misplaced through time (appearing alongside dinosaurs that lived earlier than it did). Since then, it has seen a boost in popularity, and it has since been a relatively common sight in other pieces of media such as books, documentaries, and even movies. Aside from the aforementioned Prehistoric Park, Microraptor's second biggest public appearance was in the 2nd episode of the 2011 documentary Planet Dinosaur, where it is once again depicted as an arboreal glider and inaccurately misplaced; in the episode, it chases down a draco-like primitive lizard through the air in an attempt to eat it, right before a Sinornithosaurus appears and attempts to prey on the smaller theropod.