Zhenyuanlong suni: Sun Zhenyuan's Feathery, Meat-Eating Dragon Dinosaur of Liaoning, China

by DerdriuMarriner

Zhenyuanlong suni is the formal name since July 16, 2015 for Sun Zhenyuan’s feathery, meat-eating dragon dinosaur fossil of west Liaoning Province, China.

Sun Zhenyuan's dragon eats meat on the run

The anonymous donation to the Jinzhou Paleontological Museum of a nearly complete fossil by a simple farmer who disdains fame and prioritizes sustainability in the Sihedang area of Jianchang in northeast China’s Liaoning Province accounts for Earthlings worldwide being advised of twenty-first century breakthroughs in how archaeologists and paleontologists view birds, dinosaurs, and flight. The claw-winged, feather-bodied, large-sized specimen brings to six the carnivorous, feathered dinosaur genera discovered in Liaoning since 1996. The 126.6 centimeters long (49.84 inches long) fossil therefore counts as the newest genus among the five previously, recently established genera of:
• Changyuraptor, Graciliraptor, Microraptor, and Sinornithorsaurus for housecat or medium-sized dog, long-armed, vaned-feathered dromaeosaurines; and
• Tianyuraptor for short-armed dromaeosaurines 2 meters (6.56 feet) long.


Website: https://sites.google.com/site/brusatte/


Figure 5: Phylogenetic relationships of Zhenyuanlong suni among dromaeosaurid theropods.

Zhenyuanlong joins 5 other Liaoning fossils (Changyuraptor, Graciliraptor, Microraptor, Sinornithosaurus, Tianyuraptor) in assignment to Dromaeosauridae ("Running Lizards") family.
Scientific Reports 5, Article number: 11775, Published: 16 July 2015
Scientific Reports 5, Article number: 11775, Published: 16 July 2015

Sun Zhenyuan's dragon flaunts an 800-square-centimeter (124-square-inch) right-wing


The two paleontologists responsible for the published taxonomy of July 16, 2015, in Scientific Reports -- Junchang Lü of the Institute of Geology at the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences in Beijing, China, and Stephen L. Brusatte of the School of GeoSciences at the University of Edinburgh in England -- draw upon different associations when describing Liaoning’s most recent dromaeosaurid in modern terms. Professor Lü emphasizes big chicken, emu, eagle, turkey or vulture resemblances. Professor Brusatte furnishes the whimsical description of a feathered, fluffy poodle despite the holotype’s respectively suspected total lengths and weights of:

  • 165 centimeters (64.96 inches); and
  • 20 kilograms (44.09 pounds).

They nevertheless give as the binomial, scientific, taxonomic designation Zhenyuanlong suni, Sun Zhenyuan’s dragon. 


Zhenyuanlong suni had tail feathers similar to those of Archeopteryx, a bird-like dinosaur native to area of modern-day Germany in Late Jurassic period, 147 million years ago:

Archaeopteryx lithographica chasing a juvenile compsognathid (Compsognathus longipes) through a dark forest
Durbed's Paleo art via DeviantArt
Durbed's Paleo art via DeviantArt

Sun Zhenyuan's dragon grows an 1120-square-centimeter (173.60-square-inch) left-wing


Scientists have as the holotype upon which the formal taxonomy draws a fossilized skeleton with crushed rear cranial bones ;

  • hair-like body, head, and neck plumes;
  • lower jaw; and
  • pennaceous (quill-pen-like) arm, tail, and wing feathers.

The specimen is preserved on one slab of fissile (divisible into layers) siltstone (clayey mix, of which 50%+ as silt-sized particles) in Liaoning’s anciently volcanic eruption-riddled Yixian Formation. The slab joins into three distinct, large pieces:

  • head with anterior back and ribcage, arms, neck, pectoral girdles;
  • posterior back and ribcage with legs, pelvic girdles; and
  • tail.

The first piece keeps a smooth fit with the second whereas the second piece’s ilium knits less closely to the third’s left ilial postero-ventral corner. 


fossil specimen of Zhenyuanlong suni

holotype of large-bodied, short-armed Liaoning dromaeosaurid Zhenyuanlong suni
holotype of large-bodied, short-armed Liaoning dromaeosaurid Zhenyuanlong suni

Sun Zhenyuan's dragon has crushed head-bones, half-missing tail


Featherless hind-limbs, larger size, and shorter fore-limbs nevertheless leave paleontologists guesstimating Zhenyuanlong suni’s life cycle and natural history as: 

  • sharp-toothed carnivore;
  • shiny-winged contemporary 125,000,000 years ago of amphibians, dinosaur-eating repenomamuses, salamanders, and Yutyrannus huali; and
  • short-armed cover for eggs and hatchlings.  

Appearances indeed make flying or gliding seem impossible feats for Sun Zhenyuan’s dragon. The deep truths behind Zhenyuanlong suni’s definite foreshadowing of Velociraptor’s (of Jurassic Park fame) emergence 65,000,000 to 75,000,000 years later and possible descent from flying ancestors therefore necessitate further research.

The above-mentioned fossil of a sickle-clawed sub-adult of fused caudal and cervical vertebral and semi-fused anterior dorsal and sacral vertebral neural arches and centra nevertheless offers hope for twenty-first century resolutions to ancient mysteries. 


Zhenyuanlong suni: biggest ever winged dinosaur is found in China

Published on YouTube on July 16, 2015 by ZOOclub ~ URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ff8mQtj0RZI



My special thanks to:

  • Talented artists and photographers/concerned organizations who make their fine images available on the Internet;
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University for superior on-campus and on-line resources.


Preserved feather traces of fossil Zhenyuanlong suni

Feathered cousin of "Jurassic Park" star unearthed in China: University of Edinburgh News Release 16 July 2015
Feathered cousin of "Jurassic Park" star unearthed in China: University of Edinburgh News Release 16 July 2015

Sources Consulted


Ferreira, Becky. 16 July 2015. “This New Raptor Species Confirms That Scaly Naked Movie Raptors Are Dumb.” motherboard.vice.com. Retrieved July 18, 2015. 

  • Available @ http://motherboard.vice.com/read/this-new-raptor-fossil-confirms-that-scaly-naked-movie-raptors-are-dumb

Geggel, Laura. “Velociraptor’s Cousin Flaunted Fabulous Feathers, Tiny Arms.” MSN > US Edition > News > Technology. Retrieved July 18, 2015. 

  • Available @ http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/technology/velociraptors-cousin-flaunted-fabulous-feathers-tiny-arms/ar-AAd37Ox?ocid=ansLiveScience11

Le Roux, Mariette. 16 July 2015. “Jurassic Park Star Was Fluffy with Wings: Study.” Yahoo! News. Retrieved July 18, 2015. 

  • Available @ http://news.yahoo.com/jurassic-park-star-fluffy-wings-study-160342637.html;_ylt=AwrSbgYAJalV7jYAYORXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTEyazNyazBxBGNvbG8DZ3ExBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDQjA0ODZfMQRzZWMDc2M-

Lü, Junchang; and Brusatte, Stephen L. 2015. "A Large, Short-armed, Winged Dromaeosaurid (Dinosauria: Theroppoda) from the Early Cretaceous of China and Its Implications for Feather Evolution.” Scientific Reports 5, article number 11775; doi: 10.1038/srep11775 

Millner, Jack. 16 July 2015. “The Terrifying ‘Bloodthirsty Giant Peacock’: New Specids of 5ft Long Winged Dinosaur Discovered – and It Hints that Velociraptors Were Covered in Feathers Too.” dailymail.co.uk > sciencetech/article. Retrieved July 18, 2015. 

  • Available @ http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3163761/New-species-winged-dinosaur-discovered-hints-close-cousin-Velociraptor-covered-feathers-too.html

Reuters, Thomson. 16 July 2015. “New Winged Dinosaur Zhenyuanlong suni Sets Size Record.” CBS News > news > technology & science. Retrieved July 18, 2015. 

  • Available @ http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/new-winged-dinosaur-zhenyuanlong-suni-sets-size-record-1.3154834

Sample, Ian. 16 July 2015. “Zhenyuanlong suni: Biggest Ever Winged Dinosaur Is Found in China.” The Guardian > science. Retrieved July 18, 2015. 

  • Available @ http://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/jul/16/zhenyuanlong-suni-biggest-ever-winged-dinosaur-discovered-china

Sample, Ian. 17 July 2015. “Zhenyuanlong suni, Huge Winged Dinosaur Is Found in China.” derwombat.net. Retrieved July 18, 2015. 

  • Available @ http://derwombat.net/2015/07/17/zhenyuanlong-suni-huge-winged-dinosaur-is-found-in-china/

Sci-News.com. 16 July 2015. “Zhenyuanlong suni: New Feather-winged Dinosaur Species Discovered.” sci-news.com > paleontology/science. Retrieved July 18, 2015. 

  • Available @ http://www.sci-news.com/paleontology/science-zhenyuanlong-suni-new-feather-winged-dinosaur-03027.html

Switek, Brian. 16 July 2015. “Paleo Profile: Zhenyuanlong suni.” National Geographic > Phenomena: Laelaps. Retrieved July 18, 2015. 

  • Available @ http://phenomena.nationalgeographic.com/2015/07/16/paleo-profile-zhenyuanlong-suni/

Tiwari, Aditi Simlai. 17 July 2015. “Zhenyuanlong Suni: Largest Winged Fossil Ever Found.” hngn.com. Retrieved July 18, 2015. 

  • Available @ http://www.hngn.com/articles/110198/20150717/zhenyuanlong-suni-largest-winged-fossil-found.htm

Williams, Martin. 17 July 2015. “Zhenyuanlong suni: Biggest Feathered Dinosaur, Zhenyuanlong suni, Discovered. cubiclane.com > technology & science. Retrieved July 18, 2015. 

  • Available @ http://cubiclane.com/zhenyuanlong-suni-biggest-feathered-dinosaur-zhenyuanlong-suni-discovered-20706/


Stephen L. Brusatte's describes Zhenyuanlong suni as "fluffy feathered killer"with "sharp claws on its wings and a mouth full of teeth" ~

Artist's interpretation of Zhenyuanlong suni commissioned by research team: artwork by Chuang Zhao, currently China's only Paleo-art specialist
Feathered cousin of "Jurassic Park" star unearthed in China: University of Edinburgh News Release 16 July 2015
Feathered cousin of "Jurassic Park" star unearthed in China: University of Edinburgh News Release 16 July 2015
the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

Walking with Dinosaurs Encyclopedia (Walking With Dinosaurs the 3d Movie) by Steve Brusatte ~ Available now via Amazon

American paleontologist Stephen Louis (Steve) Brusatte, author of popular and scientific publications, is co-describer of Zhenyuanlong suni.

Two Microraptor Dinosaurs Fly Near Mountain Waterfalls in Prehistoric Times: artwork by Corey Ford/Stocktrek Images ~ Available now via AllPosters

Discovered in Zhenyuanlong suni's home province of Liaoning in northeastern China, Microraptors were small, 4-winged dinosaurs.
Two Microraptor Dinosaurs Fly Near Mountain Waterfalls in Prehistoric Times

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dinosaur themed products

Me and my purrfectly purrfect Maine coon kittycat, Augusta "Gusty" Sunshine

Gusty and I thank you for reading this article and hope that our product selection interests you; Gusty Gus receives favorite treats from my commissions.
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
Updated: 09/29/2015, DerdriuMarriner
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DerdriuMarriner on 07/20/2015

blackspanielgallery, Yes, it certainly is impressive how many variations exist on the dinosaur theme in the ancient world! So it's reassuring to think that more and more prehistoric mysteries have hopes of being understood since there never seems to be a shortage of interest or involvement in dinosaur films, research, and writing 65,000,000 years later.

blackspanielgallery on 07/20/2015

It is amazing how many different dinosaurs there were.

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