Last updated on April 23, 2014 at 11:18 EDT


Pedopenna, meaning “foot feather”, is a genus of feathered maniraptoran dinosaur from the Callovian age of the Middle Jurassic Period. The Daohugou Beds in China, where the dinosaur was found, have been under debate about the age of the formation. The dinosaur was originally placed in the Early Cretaceous Period, but radiometric dating proved Pedopenna was from the Middle Jurassic (168-140 million years ago).

Its name, Pedopenna, refers to the long (pennaceous) contoured feathers on the foot of the dinosaur. The species name, daohugouensis, refers to the bone beds where it was found.

Pedopenna measured about 3 feet or less in length, but since it is only known from hind limbs, the actual length is hard to estimate. Its feet resembled those of related troodontid and dromaeosaurids, but were more primitive. An enlarged claw and slightly shortened second toe was not as developed as the strongly curved, sickle-like claws seen in its relatives.

Pedopenna had a very bird-like skeletal structure in its legs, with long contoured feathers on its feet. Its hind wings differed from other bird-like animals such as Microraptor. Pedopenna’s hind wings were smaller and more rounded in shape and most of the feathers were slightly shorter than the foot, by about 2 inches. Also, the hind wings were symmetrical, rather than asymmetrical, as most flying birds have. It is likely that Pedopenna represents an early stage in the evolution of flight feathers.

In a 2005 description of Pedopenna, Xu and Zhang suggested that the feathers were most likely ornamental or vestigial.

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