An Ultimate Guide to Yi Qi: The Strange Wing

Leave a comment / / Updated on: 2nd October 2023

NameYi QiDietOmnivorous
Name Meaning“Strange wing”Height0.7 meters
PronunciationSMY-lo-donLength24 inches wingspan
EraMesozoic Late JurassicWeight0.84 lbs (380 g)
ClassificationDinosauria,‭ Saurischia & TheropodaLocationChina, Asia

Yi Qi Pictures

Yi Qi Life restoration
Yi Qi Life restoration | Nobu Tamura via Wikipedia CC BY-SA 4.0

The Yi Qi

Gage Beasley Prehistoric's Yi Qi Concept
Gage Beasley Prehistoric’s Yi Qi Concept

The scansoriopterygid dinosaurs, an enigmatic group nestled within the intricate branches of the dinosaurian family tree, stand as a testament to the evolutionary creativity that once flourished on our planet. 

These diminutive yet captivating creatures have captured the imagination of paleontologists and researchers, offering a window into the complexities of prehistoric ecosystems and the dynamic forces that shaped their existence. 

With their distinct anatomical adaptations and remarkable behaviors, scansoriopterygids beckon us to explore the intersection of scientific inquiry, evolutionary theory, and the awe-inspiring diversity that characterizes life’s journey through time. 

The scansoriopterygid this article focuses on is the Yi Qi, an extinct dinosaur from the Late Jurassic period in China. 

Unearthed from the rich fossil beds of China, the discovery of Yi Qi has shed new light on the evolution of flight and the diversity of life during the Mesozoic Era. 

The Yi Qi dinosaur was discovered in the famous fossil-rich region of China. 

An artist sketch of Yi Qi
An artist sketch of Yi Qi | John Conway via JohnConway Art

Its remains were unearthed from the Tiaojishan Formation in the Hebei Province. 

This remarkable find took place during the Middle to Late Jurassic period, approximately 160 million years ago. 

The intricate layers of sediment and rock in this region have yielded a wealth of insights into the ancient ecosystems that once thrived on our planet, including the intriguing and enigmatic Yi Qi dinosaur. 

A farmer named Wang Jianrong is credited with finding the Yi Qi dinosaur in a quarry close to Mutoudeng Village (Qinglong County, Hebei). 

In 2007, Wang sold the fossil to the Shandong Tianyu Museum of Nature, which Ding Xiaoqing, a technician there, further processed. 

Continue through the subsequent portions of this article to discover more facts about this dinosaur and what made it unique.

Gage Beasley's Prehistoric Shirt Collection
Gage Beasley’s Prehistoric Shirt Collection
Gage Beasley's Prehistoric Plush Collection
Gage Beasley’s Prehistoric Plush Collection

Physical Characteristics 

Yi explores its surroundings
Yi explores its surroundings | Merlobird via Wikipedia CC BY-SA 4.0

Like other scansoriopterygids, the Yi Qi was a really small dinosaur at an estimated weight of 0.84 pounds. 

Its small size sets it apart from its larger theropod relatives, making it a remarkable specimen for study. 

The slender build of Yi Qi further accentuates its size, suggesting adaptations for a specific lifestyle that differed from its contemporaries. 

The sole known specimen of Yi qi was preserved with a thick feathered coating

Its body was adorned with a dense layer of feathers that served various purposes beyond mere insulation. 

These feathers likely played a role in display, communication, and camouflage. 

Scientists found examining the intricate structure of the bird’s feathers challenging since the head, neck, and body feathers were long and formed a thick covering. 

Gage Beasley Prehistoric's Yi Qi Size Comparison Chart
Gage Beasley Prehistoric’s Yi Qi Size Comparison Chart

The six-centimeter-longest feathers were on the shinbone and the back of the upper arm. 

This heterogeneous plumage indicates a complex arrangement that could have served specific functions related to its environment and lifestyle.

Yi Qi’s forelimbs are a marvel of evolution. 

The most striking feature is the presence of elongated feathers extending from its wrists. 

Unlike any seen in modern birds, these ribbon-like feathers are reminiscent of quills and raise intriguing questions about their purpose. 

Some theories propose that these feathers could have played a role in courtship displays or gliding capabilities. 

The wrists themselves possessed sharp claws, hinting at a potential predatory function. 

Similar to those of the majority of other paravian dinosaurs, the forelimbs were long and thin. 

Yi Qi artist sketch
Yi Qi artist sketch | Daniel Goitom via mcblackneck.artstation

Like other scansoriopterygid dinosaurs, the first and third fingers were the smallest and longest, respectively. 

Unlike all other dinosaurs discovered, this one had a long, pointed wrist bone called a styliform element that was longer than the third finger and the ulna. 

Yi Qi’s wings were not a straightforward replication of modern bird wings. 

Instead, they featured a membranous structure supported by the elongated feathers on its wrists. 

This arrangement suggests that Yi Qi might have been capable of gliding or limited powered flight.

Like other scansoriopterygids, the Yi Qi’s head was short and blunt-snouted, with a downturned lower jaw. 

The head of Yi Qi reveals a combination of features distinguishing it from other dinosaurs. 

Fossil of Yi Qi
Fossil of Yi Qi | ★Kumiko★ via Wikipedia CC BY-SA 2.0

The skull is relatively small and delicate, indicating a possible adaptation for an agile and specialized lifestyle. 

Its cranial structure also suggests a keen sense of vision and the ability to track movements, essential traits for a predator. 

Yi Qi’s beak and teeth are of particular interest. 

The beak is pointed and curved, reminiscent of other carnivorous theropods. 

However, Yi Qi’s teeth are not as robust or numerous, unlike its more prominent relatives. 

This points towards potential dietary specialization, possibly involving insects and small vertebrates. 

Its few teeth were only found at the points of the jaws, with the four biggest and most forward-pointing upper front teeth on each side and the lower front teeth being even more forward-facing.

Habitat and Distribution

The Yi Qi dinosaur inhabited northeastern China between the Middle and Late Jurassic periods, approximately 160 million years ago. 

Geochemical studies, examinations of the distribution of fossils and silt, and other methods can be used to recreate Jurassic climates. 

The coldest and hottest temperatures were recorded in the Middle Jurassic and Late Jurassic, respectively. 

The Jurassic-Cretaceous transition saw a decrease in temperature. 

It has been hypothesized that greater global temperatures during the Jurassic were caused by increased volcanic activity and seafloor expansion, producing significant greenhouse gas carbon dioxide volumes. 

Bennettitales, ginkgo trees, conifers, and leptosporangiate ferns comprise most of the environment that has survived in the Tiaojishan Formation. 

Conifer forest
Conifer forest | brave-carp via iStock

Under the shadow of active volcanoes, these woods were home to sizable lakes, and the ash from those volcanoes allowed so many of the fossils to be so well preserved.

Fossils of the Yi Qi dinosaur have been discovered in the Tiaojishan Formation of Liaoning Province of Hebei, China. 

This formation is renowned for its exceptional preservation of ancient organisms, owing to the fine-grained sediments that facilitated the fossilization process. 

The distribution of Yi Qi remains primarily confined to this specific geological formation, indicating that it had a relatively localized range. 

Tiaojishan Formation
Tiaojishan Formation | Jia Jia et. al. via Wikipedia CC BY 4.0

The Tiaojishan Formation is known for its diverse fossil assemblages, including dinosaurs like Yi Qi and other reptiles, early mammals, insects, and plants

This suggests a complex ecosystem with a variety of interactions between different species. 

Yi Qi is especially intriguing due to its feathered wings and bat-like membrane, suggesting it could glide or fly. 

Elongated fingers supporting the wing membrane indicate an adaptation for aerodynamic gliding. 

The structure of its wing membranes provides insights into the evolutionary development of flight among dinosaurs.

Behavior and Diet

Yi Qi standing upright expanding its feathers.
Yi Qi standing upright expanding its feathers | Vaderxl via Dinopedia Fandom

Social behavior among prehistoric creatures is challenging due to the scarcity of fossil evidence and the limitations of interpretation. 

However, some inferences can be made based on Yi Qi’s anatomy and ecological context. 

Its flight capabilities suggest the possibility of social behaviors such as flocking, communal roosting, or even simple forms of cooperation during hunting or nesting. 

These behaviors are observed in modern birds and some pterosaurs, providing potential analogies for Yi Qi’s social tendencies. 

Understanding the social structure of Yi qi requires an examination of its habitat and the ecological niche it occupied. 

The Late Jurassic environment was home to a diverse range of flora and fauna, and Yi Qi likely interacted with various other dinosaurs, mammals, and reptiles. 

Its adaptations for flight could have allowed it to exploit different ecological niches and food sources, influencing its social interactions with other species.

Yi Qi standing still
Yi Qi standing still | Joanna_Kobierska via Blender Artist

Given its probable arboreal nature, it is hypothesized that Yi Qi might have exhibited some form of social behavior, possibly in small groups or family units. 

Cooperation among individuals could have offered advantages in finding food, navigating their complex environment, and protecting themselves from predators. 

However, due to the scarcity of fossil evidence, it is challenging to determine the exact nature of their social interactions. 

Inferences about Yi Qi’s social behavior can also be drawn from its ecological context. 

The Late Jurassic ecosystem of China was home to a diverse array of dinosaurs, mammals, and other creatures. 

This complex environment would have presented various niches and resources that could have influenced the social dynamics of Yi Qi

Interaction with other small dinosaurs, insects, and plant life could have shaped their behavior.

Yi Qi’s Skeletal structure | Jaime Headden via Wikipedia CC BY 3.0

The diet of Yi Qi can be inferred from its skeletal structure and features. 

The elongated finger and membranous wing-like structure indicate an arboreal lifestyle. 

This leads researchers to believe that Yi Qi primarily inhabited trees and used its unique adaptations for gliding or short flights between branches. 

Such a lifestyle suggests that its diet consisted of insects, small vertebrates, fruits, and other plant materials in its arboreal habitat. 

The teeth of Yi Qi also provide important clues about its diet. 

The teeth are small and sharp, characteristic of animals that consume various prey items. 

This suggests that Yi Qi might have been an opportunistic feeder capable of consuming insects, small mammals, and possibly even small reptiles or amphibians.

Life Cycle

Juvenile Yi Qi
Juvenile Yi Qi | Porfirio 739 via Dinopedia Fandom

Like many dinosaurs, Yi Qi would have progressed through several life stages: egg, juvenile, and adult. 

During the first stage, Yi Qi would have hatched from an egg laid by its parent. 

Unfortunately, due to the delicate nature of eggs and the rarity of their preservation in the fossil record, we have very little direct evidence of dinosaur eggs, including those of Yi Qi. 

However, studies of closely related dinosaur species suggest that the eggs were likely laid in nests, and the young dinosaurs would have been born in a relatively helpless state, requiring care and protection from predators. 

Yi Qi with its young in a nest
Yi Qi with its young in a nest | Connor Ashbridge via Wikimedia Commons

As a juvenile, Yi Qi would have experienced rapid growth and development. 

It would have relied on its parents or other members of its social group for protection, guidance, and food. 

Upon adulthood, Yi Qi would have been more independent and better equipped to navigate its environment. 

With its unique wing-like appendages, it’s plausible that Yi Qi might have used its membranous wings for various purposes, such as gliding between trees or even short bursts of flight. 

However, more research is needed to fully understand the extent of its flying capabilities and how it may have impacted its behavior and interactions with its ecosystem.

Evolution and History

Yi Qi eating
Yi Qi eating | Joanna_Kobierska via Blender Artist

Yi Qi was assigned to the family of maniraptoran theropods known as Scansoriopterygidae. 

The cladistic analysis needed to clarify its precise affinities with Epidendrosaurus and Epidexipteryx, the other known scansoriopterygids. 

The Scansoriopterygidae was identified in the research as the Paraves’ most basic group. 

Yi Qi belongs to the broader group of theropod dinosaurs, a lineage characterized by their bipedal stance, sharp teeth, and often predatory nature. 

However, Yi Qi’s classification within this group is subject to debate due to its distinctive features that set it apart from other known species. 

Yi Qi's beak
Yi Qi’s beak | Joanna_Kobierska via Blender Artist

Its most notable trait is the presence of elongated, quill-like feathers on its fingers, similar to the feathers found on some ancient flying reptiles.

A farmer named Wang Jianrong discovered Yi Qi’s first and only known fossilized specimen in a quarry close to Mutoudeng Village (Qinglong County, Hebei). 

In 2007, Ding Xiaoqing, a technician at the museum, started further preparing the fossil after Wang sold it to the Shandong Tianyu Museum of Nature. 

Scientists who examined the specimen were sure that it was legitimate and undamaged since many of the specimen’s distinctive characteristics and soft tissues were discovered by museum employees during preparation rather than by amateur fossil sellers before the acquisition. 

A CAT scan was used to corroborate this.

Interactions with Other Species

Yi Qi gliding to eat an insect
Yi Qi gliding to eat an insect | Emily Willoughby via Wikipedia CC BY-SA 4.0

Yi Qi likely inhabited lush environments rich in plant and insect life. Its small size and potential gliding ability enabled it to access different ecological niches, including densely vegetated areas or tree canopies. 

Such habitats would have provided a variety of food sources and potential interactions with other species. 

As a small dinosaur, Yi Qi might have been susceptible to predation from larger predators of its time, such as other dinosaurs or primitive mammals. 

Its flight or gliding capability could have served as an effective escape mechanism, allowing it to avoid ground-based threats.

Yi Qi’s diet likely consisted of insects, small vertebrates, and plant matter. 

Yi Qi glidingJoanna_Kobierska
Yi Qi gliding | Joanna_Kobierska via Blender Artist

Its interactions with its prey would have influenced local ecosystems, contributing to the balance of predator-prey relationships. 

In ecosystems teeming with diverse life forms, competition for resources was inevitable. 

Yi Qi might have competed with other small vertebrates for food and shelter. 

Its unique flying or gliding ability could have given it an advantage in accessing certain resources. 

The creature also shared its environment with other dinosaur species, early mammals, and reptiles. 

The interactions between these species would have shaped the complex web of life during the Late Jurassic period.

Cultural Significance

Yi Qi artwork
Yi Qi artwork | Jordan via Taluns

The cultural significance of the Yi Qi dinosaur is multifaceted. 

Firstly, its discovery challenges traditional notions of dinosaur appearance. 

With its feathered plumage resembling modern birds, the Yi Qi provides a vivid link between the prehistoric world and the avian creatures of today. 

This revelation has led to reevaluating how we perceive dinosaurs, inspiring artists, writers, and filmmakers to reinterpret these ancient creatures with newfound accuracy and creativity. 

The Yi Qi has inspired writers to explore speculative fiction and alternative histories in literature. 

Authors can craft narratives that diverge from established timelines by imagining a world where feathered dinosaurs remained dominant. 

This stimulates readers’ imaginations and prompts discussions about the delicate balance between scientific discoveries and creative storytelling.

Yi Qi in Dinosaur Train
Yi Qi in Dinosaur Train | CeeLo Physis via Dinosaur Train Wiki

The Yi Qi dinosaur’s cultural impact extends to visual arts as well. 

Its exquisite feather structures and unique characteristics have become subjects for scientific illustrations, paintings, and sculptures. 

Artists can now envision dinosaurs as living creatures, enhancing the visual representation of these ancient animals. 

Museums and exhibitions often feature reconstructions of the Yi Qi, inviting visitors to engage with a more accurate and awe-inspiring vision of the past. 

Archaeologists, paleontologists, illustrators, and writers from various cultures come together to study, interpret, and communicate the story of the Yi Qi. 

This cooperative endeavor underscores the importance of interdisciplinary work and knowledge sharing.


The Yi Qi dinosaur, a remarkable representative of scansoriopterygid dinosaurs, offers a captivating glimpse into the evolutionary diversity of prehistoric life. 

Its distinct adaptations, including elongated feathered appendages, challenge traditional notions of dinosaur appearance and stimulate creative reimaginations in art and literature. 

With its potential for gliding or limited flight, x expands our understanding of prehistoric ecosystems and interactions between species. 

As a small, arboreal creature, Yi Qi likely engaged in complex behaviors and interactions within its environment, influencing predator-prey relationships and potentially exhibiting social tendencies. 

The cultural significance of Yi Qi resonates through its impact on various artistic expressions, inspiring accurate visual representations and speculative narratives. 

This enigmatic dinosaur underscores the synergy between scientific discovery, interdisciplinary collaboration, and the imaginative exploration of our planet’s rich history.


Were there other scansoriopterygids similar to the Yi Qi?

Yes, there are other scansoriopterygids like Epidendrosaurus and Epidexipteryx. 

These dinosaurs share some characteristics but also have distinct features that set them apart.

How did the Yi Qi dinosaur get its name?

Yi Qi translates to “strange wing” in English. 

It was given to the dinosaur because of its unique and peculiar wing-like feathers that set it apart from other dinosaurs. 

These elongated feathers extending from its wrists were unlike anything seen in modern birds or other dinosaurs, leading to the name Yi Qi, which reflects its distinctive wing adaptation.


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