Microraptor zhaoianus ("Zhao Xijin's small thief') is a small, feathered dromaeosaurid dinosaur genus from the Lower Cretaceous (Middle Barremian-Lower Aptian). Like Archaeopteryx, it demonstrates the shut evolutionary relationship between birds and dinosaurs, as it had lengthy feathers on its limbs and tail. Two species have been named, M. zhaoianus and M. GUI. It has newly been recommended that all of the specimens belong to a single species, which is properly called M. zhaoianus.Description
Microraptor was about 77cm long from its nose to the tip of its tail. Like its close comparative Cryptovolans (possibly a junior synonym of Microraptor), Microraptor had long feathers on together its fore- and hind legs, which has led to it being called a "four-winged dinosaur".
It has been planned by Chinese scientists that the animal glided, rather than flew properly. However, close studies of the Berlin specimen of the prehistoric bird Archaeopteryx show that it too, had flight feathers on its hind legs, albeit shortened. Many scientists now believe that all basal avians had feathers on their hind legs, and that they were worn like the tail feathers of present birds for maintaining balance and changing direction in the air.
Six virtually complete skeletons were establish in Liaoning, China in
2001 and 2002.