Natural History



     home > natural history

Mei long
"soundly sleeping dragon"

Mei was first described in 2004 for a beautiful skeleton preserved in a sleeping posture, with the head and neck tucked under one small wing and the tail wrapped completely around the body. Though the news media at the time treated this as a unique find, in fact at least one other deinonychosaur had been found in the same pose--Sinornithoides. An undescribed Velociraptor skeleton is also in this same posture, one shared with modern birds when sleeping or sheltered. In the case of Mei, which was found in volcanic ash sediments of the lower Yixian formation, the animal likely died while shielding itself from falling clouds of ash and was poisoned or asphyxiated, sealing it in its sleeping posture like a Mesozoic Pompeii. The specific name refers to its eternal slumber, or tries to. In fact Mei is an odd scientific name in that the genus is an adjective and the species a noun, the usual situation is the reverse. So while the intended meaning is something like "sondly sleeping dragon", the actual translation comes out closer to "dragon to sleep soundly."

There's an old meme on internet dinosaur sites that holds deinonychosaurs and other basal paravians had stiff, infexible tails. It's true that they were stiffened more than your average theropod, but as specimens like the Mei holotype show, they were still quite flexible, able to bend and curl around the entire body. I've speculated a little and given Mei some pale yellow feathers, which is also a hedge. Pale yellow like this can be created by standard melanosomes, though most yellows (especially brighter hues) are generated by caratinoids in the animals diet, usually from eating fruit and seeds, or by eating herbivorous arthropods.

Image License:
All rights reserved

Length: 45cm (1.5ft)
Weight: 0.27kg (0.6lbs)
Location: Yixian Formation, Liaoning, China
Time: Aptian age, Early Cretaceous, (125 Ma)

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Stem-Aves
Family: Troodontidae
Genus: Mei
Species: M. long


Scale diagram

Peelback Matt Martyniuk 2010-2013