Scansoriopteryx (“climbing wing”)
- Temporal range: Late Jurassic, 154 Ma
- Fossil location: Liaoning, China
- Known species: S. heilmanni
Like fellow scansoriopterygid Epidexipteryx, this tiny dinosaur was part of the clade Avialae, which is composed of the birds and their most immediate extinct relatives. The juvenile type specimen contains the fossilized impression of feathers; the most prominent of these impressions trail from the left forearm and hand, which has led to speculation that adult scansoriopterygids had reasonably well-developed wing feathers that could have aided in leaping or rudimentary gliding.
Even if it got some use out of its wing feathers while airborne, Scansoriopteryx was most likely incapable of powered flight. Instead, the dinosaur’s elongated hands and specialized foot anatomy imply that it was adapted to a scansorial (climbing) lifestyle—hence its genus name. The unusually long third finger may have served two major purposes: as an additional climbing adaptation and as a tool for digging insects out of crevices in trees.