Here's what happens when you put a dinosaur in a wind tunnel

This is a Microraptor. It's a Cretacious Era dinosaur that lived 125 million years ago in a little place we now call China. Microraptor fossils show us that these little reptiles had a shocking number of feathers for, you know, non-birds. About the size of a raven, the Microraptor had feathers upon all five of its limbs — including its tail.

Creatures with so many feathered limbs are a highly rare thing when it comes to the fossil record, so a team of scientists from the University of Southampton got it into their heads to determine what benefit they might have held for Microraptor. To that end,p they did what any well-meaning scientist does when testing aerodynamics: hurled a Microraptor into a wind tunnel and shut the door.

Since four-winged flight clearly didn't catch on evolutionarily speaking, the University of Southampton team hypothesized that it was instead a stepping stone in the evolution of two-winged flight. What they discovered was that Microraptor was a paravian creature whose feathers were used to execute glides from tree to tree. Differing the wing shape of their model proved basically useless in altering the team's results. The Microraptor just wasn't designed to soar into the wide blue yonder. It's a result that strongly reinforces the theory that the first feathers were not used for what we would call true flight.

To check out the wind tunnel test itself, as well as the feathered model that was used in the tests, take a look at the video below.

Nature, via

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