The fossil of a newly discovered species is further evidence of the existence of tiny dinosaurs with bat-like wings, scientists have said.
The small creatures, usually weighing just 200 grams, had what appeared to be bat-like, membrane wings, something previously unknown among theropod dinosaurs, research showed.
The fossil was discovered in Liaoning Province, China and is thought to be about 163 million years old.
They show that, as they were beginning to fly, dinosaurs closely related to birds were experimenting with a range of different wing structures, a paper in the journal Nature said.
Research author Min Wang and colleagues at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing said the small scansoriopterygids family of dinosaurs are generally reconstructed as feathered tree climbers, with very long hands and fingers.
But further research showed that the Yi qi and Ambopteryx longibrachium – both members of the scansoriopterygids group – had membranous wings and a styliform, which was a long, pointed wrist bone.
The scientists said the membranous wings and elongated forelimbs in the scansoriopterygids family probably demonstrate a short-lived experimentation with flight, before feathered wings became dominant.