Researchers in China revealed that they have uncovered fossils of pre-historic birds that were thought to have had four wings.
The discovery was reportedly made by Xing Xu, a paleontologist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the fossil, which was found in Liaoning, China, is thought to be that of a four-winged bird.
Xu told state media that it could have been common for birds living tens of millions of years ago to have four wings as opposed to just two, given that it provides greater maneuverability and lift.
Xu said that it could have been possible for two of the wings to provide for lift while the other two wings could have helped the birds steer and glide. He added that this has long been thought to be the most efficient and easiest type of winged propulsion.
The research team at the academy examined 11 different fossils from various classifications of ancient birds, with some of the fossils dating back 150 million years.
Xu claimed that after examining the fossils, he noticed the birds had two wings as well as feathers along the legs. Xu stated that the second set of wings was thought to have "either provided lift, or created drag, or enhanced maneuverability or a combination of all of these functions."
Paleontologists explained that pre-historic birds tended to live in trees and rarely walked in the ground. It is widely thought that four-winged birds lost their second set of wings "primarily because of the evolution of two different locomotion systems in birds- arm wings for flight and legs for walking and running."
While the new details are still emerging over the four-winged creature, the fossils will provide a more detailed view of the evolutionary path of ancient birds.
"These new fossils fill in many gaps in our view of the early evolution of birds," David Alexander, an animal flight expert at the University of Kansas, Lawrence, who was not involved in the study, told Science magazine.