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Newly Discovered Dinosaur Species May Have Flown Like A Bat

The world of dinosaurs as we know it just got a little bigger.

But this new species wasn't land-bound like their fellow dinos and the ones we might recognize most easily. Instead, these prehistoric creatures were likely happily soaring above predators in between trees and in the sky.

Or at least, that's what scientists are concluding.

Scientists have long known that some dinosaurs were able to fly.

According to Science Magazine, dinosaur birds are certainly nothing new, and scientists have even discovered some species of dinosaurs with feathers on their hind and forelimbs - basically, dinosaurs with wings.

In 2017, a unique fossil was found in China that researchers thought looked like a 'flying dinosaur-squirrel'.

Unsplash | Charlie Marusiak

National Geographic reported that they initially believed they had found an early bird. But Min Wang, a paleontologist at China's Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, knew this was something different.

This new creature looked like it had a flap of skin attached between its body and arm - just like a bat.

Unsplash | James Wainscoat

However, the fossil was too poorly preserved for Wang to determine for sure if they had found a new species of dinosaur that flew like a bat.

Now, a new discovery has scientists confidently concluding China was once home to Jurassic bat-like creatures.

Youtube | NPG Press

First unveiled today in the journal Nature, scientists have uncovered a new fossil of the same dinosaur species they found in 2017. Only this time, it was well-preserved enough to confidently conclude that it likely flew like a bat.

The species has been given the genus name is Ambopteryx, Latin for "both wings."

Youtube | NPG Press

National Geographic reported that scientists have identified brownish film on the creature's wing which they believe to be remnants of its wing membrane.

The creature was found with fossilized feathers and a group of fused tail vertebrae, much like what holds today's bird's tail feathers.

Youtube | NPG Press

"You could have fit it in your hand,” IVPP paleontologist and study author Jingmai O’Connor told Science Magazine of the new species. “It would have been this tiny, bizarre-looking, buck-toothed thing like nothing alive today.”

Check out the video below depicting an artist's rendering of how the bat-like species likely appeared over 160 million years ago.

There's a big difference between how this dinosaur flew and how birds today fly.

As O'Connor explained to Science Magazine, birds are capable of flight due to the lift-generating surface of the feathers on their wings. It's a bit different for bats.

“In instead have flaps of skin that are stretched out in between skeletal elements," he explained.

These are the same flaps of skin found on the Ambopteryx.

So how well exactly could this dinosaur fly?

Youtube | NPG Press

Well, scientists are still trying to figure that out.

For the most part, the fossil indicates that this thing would have easily flown among trees, though no one is sure how high or how far they could fly just yet.

Think of today's flying squirrels and sugar gliders and you'll have the right idea.

What did the Ambopteryx eat? We actually have the answer.

The fossil was so well-preserved that researchers were able to uncover its stomach contents.

They found pieces of gizzard bone and small rocks known as gastroliths. Modern birds use the same stones to grind plant material. So these stones plus the bones have lead researchers to conclude that this new species may have been omnivorous.

More research is still needed and more fossils need to be found before scientists have all the answers.

Unsplash | Igam Ogam

Discovering an even more well-preserved fossil of the Ambopteryx would be ideal, and while this seems like a lot to ask for, they definitely got their wish the first time they discovered the species in 2017.

So who knows what they'll find next? Maybe in a few years we'll finally know everything there needs to know about this incredible bat-winged species.

h/t: National Geographic