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Scientists have discovered a winged dinosaur -- an ancestor of the velociraptor -- that they say was on the cusp of becoming a bird.

Stashed in: Science!, Birds!, Darwin

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This was an outstanding find:

The 6ft 6in (2m) creature was almost perfectly preserved in limestone, thanks to a volcanic eruption that had buried it in north-east China.

And the 125-million year-old fossil suggests many other dinosaurs, including velociraptors, would have looked like "big, fluffy killer birds".

But it is unlikely that it could fly.

The dinosaur has been named Zhenyuanlong, meaning "Zhenyuan's dragon" - in honour of the man who procured the fossil for the museum in Jinzhou, allowing it to be studied.

The University of Edinburgh and the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences collaboration is published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Lead researcher Dr Steve Brusatte said it was "the single most beautiful fossil I have had the privilege to work on".

"It has short arms, and it is covered in feathers [with] proper wings with layers of quill-pen feathers," he said.

Reddit comment on why it is not considered a bird:

Having bird-like traits does not necessarily make something a bird. This fossil demonstrates that there was definitely a feathered dinosaur with some sort of wings. While you could definitely draw an evolutionary line between this specimen and modern birds, the specimen in question isn't necessarily a bird.

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