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Temporal range: Early Cretaceous, 122 Ma
Yixianosaurus slab diagram (png).png
A diagram of preserved elements of IVPP V12638
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Clade: Dinosauria
Clade: Saurischia
Clade: Theropoda
Family: Anchiornithidae
Genus: Yixianosaurus
Xu & Wang, 2003
Y. longimanus
Binomial name
Yixianosaurus longimanus
Xu & Wang, 2003

Yixianosaurus (meaning "Yixian lizard") is a maniraptoran theropod dinosaur genus from the Early Cretaceous of China.

The type species, Yixianosaurus longimanus, was formally named and described by Xu Xing and Wang Xiaolin in 2003. Its partial skeleton was discovered in 2001, in Liaoning at Wangjiagou in northeastern China. The generic name refers to the Yixian Formation. The specific name means "with a long hand" from Latin longus, "long", and manus, "hand".[1]


Reconstruction of Yixianosaurus longimanus as an anchiornithid based on IVPP V12638 and fossils of close relatives

Yixianosaurus is known only from a single specimen, holotype IVPP V12638, which likely derived from the Dawangzhangzi Bed (early Aptian stage, 122 million years ago).[2] It is a compression fossil, viewed from behind and preserved on a single slab that has been sawed into several pieces. It consists of the shoulder girdle and a pair of fossilized arms complete with fossilized feathers, some ribs, and gastralia. Yixianosaurus has a very long hand, 140% of the length of the 89 millimetres (3.5 inches) humerus. The second finger is the longest. The fingers bear large and recurved claws. The feathers are not preserved well enough to show a specific structure, but they appear similar to the contour feathers of some Yixian Formation birds.[1] The large hands could have served in catching prey or assisted in climbing. The total body length has been estimated at 1 meter (3.3 feet), the weight at 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds).[3] Xu et al. (2013) suggested that the presence of large pennaceous feathers on parts of the forelimb strongly supports that Yixianosaurus was adapted for limited aerial locomotion.[4]


Size comparison between an adult Y. longimanus and the average human adult male

The describers considered the exact placement of Yixianosaurus within Maniraptora to be uncertain, but because the hand length resembled that of another feathered dinosaur, Epidendrosaurus (now Scansoriopteryx), they suggested it was a close relative of the Scansoriopterygidae. Other researchers have suggested the specimen may have come from a dromaeosaurid. Subsequent analyses were divided on whether is it is more primitive and outside the clade Eumaniraptora – this would mean that advanced characteristics such as the long hands and short arms evolved independently in this species[5] – or a basal member of the more advanced Paraves.[4] In a 2017 re-evaluation of the Harlem Archaeopteryx specimen as an anchiornithid called Ostromia, Yixianosaurus is found to be the most basal paravian.[6] However, two other studies published the same year argued that Yixianosaurus was most closely related to Xiaotingia, with both genera being either relatives of scansoriopterygids[7] or anchiornithids.[8]


  1. ^ a b Xu, X. and Wang, X. (2003). "A new maniraptoran dinosaur from the Early Cretaceous Yixian Formation of western Liaoning". Vertebrata PalAsiatica, 41(3): 195–202.
  2. ^ Xu, X. and Norell, M.A. (2006). "Non-Avian dinosaur fossils from the Lower Cretaceous Jehol Group of western Liaoning, China."Geological Journal, 41: 419–437.
  3. ^ Paul, G.S., 2010, The Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs, Princeton University Press p. 125
  4. ^ a b Xu Xing, Corwin Sullivan & Wang Shuo (2013) The systematic position of the enigmatic theropod dinosaur Yixianosaurus longimanus. Vertebrata PalAsiatica 51(3): 169-183
  5. ^ Dececchi, T.A., Larsson, H., & Hone, D. (2012). "Yixianosaurus longimanus (Theropoda: Dinosauria) and its bearing on the evolution of Maniraptora and ecology of the Jehol Biota." Vertebrata PalAsiatica, 50(2): 111-139
  6. ^ Foth, C.; Rauhut, O.W.M. (2017). "Re-evaluation of the Haarlem Archaeopteryx and the radiation of maniraptoran theropod dinosaurs". BMC Evolutionary Biology. 17 (1): 236. doi:10.1186/s12862-017-1076-y. PMC 5712154. PMID 29197327.
  7. ^ Lefèvre, Ulysse; Cau, Andrea; Cincotta, Aude; Hu, Dongyu; Chinsamy, Anusuya; Escuillié, François; Godefroit, Pascal (2017). "A new Jurassic theropod from China documents a transitional step in the macrostructure of feathers". The Science of Nature. 104 (9–10): 74. doi:10.1007/s00114-017-1496-y. PMID 28831510.
  8. ^ Cau, Andrea; Beyrand, Vincent; Voeten, Dennis F. A. E.; Fernandez, Vincent; Tafforeau, Paul; Stein, Koen; Barsbold, Rinchen; Tsogtbaatar, Khishigjav; Currie, Philip J. (December 2017). "Synchrotron scanning reveals amphibious ecomorphology in a new clade of bird-like dinosaurs". Nature. 552 (7685): 395–399. doi:10.1038/nature24679. ISSN 1476-4687. PMID 29211712.