Temporal range: Early Cretaceous, 122 Ma
Xu & Wang, 2003
Xu & Wang, 2003
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".
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). It is a compression fossil, preserved on a single slab, that, however, has been sawed into several pieces. It consists of the shoulder girdle together with a pair of fossilized arms complete with fossilized feathers and some ribs and gastralia. Yixianosaurus has a very long hand, 140% of the length of the 89 millimetres (3.5 in) long 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. The large hands could have served in catching prey or assisted climbing. The total body length has been estimated at 1 metre (3.3 ft), the weight at 1 kilogram (2.2 lbs).
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 – or a basal member of the more advanced Paraves. Xu et al. (2013) concluded that the presence of large pennaceous feathers on parts of the forelimb strongly supports that Yixianosaurus was adapted for limited aerial locomotion.
- Xu, X. and Wang, X. (2003). "A new maniraptoran from the Early Cretaceous Yixian Formation of western Liaoning". Vertebrata PalAsiatica, 41(3): 195–202.
- 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.
- Paul, G.S., 2010, The Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs, Princeton University Press p. 125
- Dececchi, T.A., Hone, D., Larsson, H., Sullivan, C. and Xu, X. (2010). "A re-analysis of the "coeluriasaurian pit-bull" Yixianosaurus longimanus with implications for the theropod dinosaur diversity of the Jehol Biota." Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 28(3): 81A.
- Xu Xing, Corwin Sullivan & Wang Shuo (2013) The systematic position of the enigmatic theropod dinosaur Yixianosaurus longimanus. Vertebrata PalAsiatica 51(3): 169-183