Dinosaurs didn’t die out when an asteroid hit Earth 66 million years ago. Get ready to unthink what you thought you knew and journey into the deep, dark depths of the Jurassic.

The discovery of the first feathered dinosaur in China in 1996 sent shockwaves through the palaeontological world. Were the feathers part of a complex mating ritual, or a stepping stone in the evolution of flight? And just how closely related is T. rex to a chicken?

Award-winning journalist John Pickrell reveals how dinosaurs developed flight and became the birds in our backyards. He delves into the latest discoveries in China, the US, Europe and uncovers a thriving black market in fossils and infighting between dinosaur hunters, plus the controversial plan to use a chicken to bring dinosaurs back from the dead.

ISBN 9781742233666 | Published in Australia by NewSouth | Published in North America by Columbia University Press | 240pp | 234x153mm | $29.99

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Yi qi

Yi qi – China, Late Jurassic (160 million years ago), described 2015

This astonishing, 60-cm long dinosaur left experts gobsmacked when it was announced in April.

A single fossil reveals that its very long fingers had a membrane of skin stretched between them, and attached to its body. This gave it wings akin to those of a bat, as well as a body covered in downy fluff, and ribbon-like feathers on its tail. Xi qi (‘ee-chee’) means ‘strange wing’. (Image credit: Dinostar Co. Ltd)

VIDEO: Birds evolved from dinosaurs – but it wasn’t a smooth transition. Plenty of creatures tried different ways to get into the air, such as this newly discovered species, unearthed in China’s Liaoning province. This pigeon-sized animal had elongated fingers that held a membrane wing, more like a bat than a bird. In the Nature Video below, experts look at what makes this fossil so special, and consider what this dinosaur may have looked like (Credit: Nature Video).

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Banner image: Feathered dinosaur Guanlong wucaii faces off against its modern relative and ‘flying dinosaur’ the bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). Guanlong is the earliest known tyrannosaur (Late Jurassic, 158–163 million years ago) and one of the smallest members of the group at about 4 metres long. Credit: Guanlong wucaii © Peter Schouten, reproduced with permission. Haliaeetus leucocephalus, Thinkstock.

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