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Microraptors are cretaceous-period dinosaurs with feathered wings on both their forelimbs and back-limbs.

Despite this, they are not considered 'true flyers' as it is believed they used their five 'wings'(The tail counts as one due to its purpose in generating 'lift') to glide from tree to tree and had few specialised flight adaptations (including a fused sternum and flight feathers). enter image description here

So, assuming that these adaptations were accounted for and a creature with four/five wings like a microraptor could sustain powered flight, how would they fly?

Would their back wings have the same flexibility as their forelimbs, making the creature fly somewhat like a dragonfly, Or would they take the shape of a bi-plane? Would the animal stand like a bird or a pterosaur? would the animal have greater manoeuvrability in the sky then a bird or would the excess drag make them too unstable for aerial acrobatics?

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    $\begingroup$ How do you know microraptor didn't fly? Sure it doesn't look like it can fly, but until we've observed them in the wild, we can't say for sure. Maybe they could fly as is. $\endgroup$ – kingledion Jan 15 '17 at 20:00
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    $\begingroup$ There have been wind tunnel tests using models, which found it had unstable flight/gliding, and it doesn't have the reach needed for true flight strokes. but i will admit that there are some palaeontologists who believe it was capable of true flight $\endgroup$ – Hannah Jan 15 '17 at 20:24
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    $\begingroup$ If they are on the verge of true flight, and possibly don't need any changes,what's the issue? $\endgroup$ – Mołot Jan 15 '17 at 21:19
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    $\begingroup$ All I'm saying is that it is a tough question to answer. If we aren't sure that it doesn't fly, and even if we were sure, we aren't sure why it can't fly, its tough to say what you would have to do. Other than the obvious-ish answer of just making its wings longer. I think what you really want to know is the questions in the last paragraph. If so, you should retool your question so that flying Microraptors are assumed and those are the primary questions, and not tacked on almost like an afterthought. $\endgroup$ – kingledion Jan 15 '17 at 21:45
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    $\begingroup$ who knows what weather they evolved for. perhaps the source of lift was wind and their bodies were more akin to modern aircraft than modern birds. $\endgroup$ – luckyape Jan 15 '17 at 22:12
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They fly like birds, specifically like slow low flying hawks.

First if you see a picture with the hind legs spread apart, the artist has broken the legs to get them in that position.

The front wings are sufficient to provide flight in microraptor, They would not have been as good as modern birds but they would have worked fine. It has all the hallmark adaptations of powered flight, like a keeled sternum and alula, and none of the adaptations you would expect in a glider, such as decent climbing ability.

The extra wings on don't provide {much} lift they would however have provided lateral stability, something that early flyers always have problems with, especially at low speeds. Which is the same speeds extra control surfaces help the most at. They do not yet have the highly derived controls for controlling stability using active minute changes in the flight wings like modern birds. Since birds did not evolve from gliders, like other flyers did, but instead from jumpers they had more reason to experiment with odd forms of stability assistance and control surfaces anyway.

You mentioned the tail, which does provide both lift and stability. We see flight surfaces evolve in the tail of every vertebrate flyer early in their evolution, it is just an easy solution. Models that say they cannot fly either forget the tail or assume fully modern flight stoke is necessary, forgetting that pterosaurs and bats aren't capable of the bird flight stroke, and that many birds fail to utilize it in normal flight.

Interestingly there are birds with elongate leg feathers, not nearly as long as microraptor but definitely modified. The rough legged hawk has elongate leg feathers which are believed to aid in air stability at slow speeds. known for flying slowly low to the ground while hunting and spend a great deal more time running than their relatives. So expect to see microraptors flying slow and low over the landscape with wings held horizontal scanning for prey.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4203027/

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I would imagine the fore-wings would generate lift while the additional wings would be used for stabilizing and maneuverability.

This is, of coursed, based on the idea that you are seeking a plausible, not scientific method for flight.

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A combination of pitch control by the tail, roll generation by the ‘hindwings’ and multi-purpose control by the main wings would have made Microraptor a highly maneuverable animal. The rear limb feathers would have created a lot of drag. For every surface, you pay a little drag tax. But the advantage of improved ability may well have outweighed this problem.

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four wing bugs are real, this is a picture of what looks like a conjoined twins mosquito I took in my yard and I can tell you first hand it flies rather well, I believe that the trick here is that all 4 wings are the same size and face on opposite directions which gave it an even more helicopter-like flight pattern then other mosquitoes.

Maybe your microrapoter has wings facing eachother and flies like an insect more then a bird? it would fit with the micro part

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  • $\begingroup$ They're mating, not conjoined. :'D $\endgroup$ – Tero Apr 5 at 11:44
  • $\begingroup$ @Tero do they do that while flying? $\endgroup$ – cypher Apr 6 at 10:12
  • $\begingroup$ Many flying insects can and do mate mid-air, and ones that prefer mating off-air can fly off whilst attached if they're bothered or in danger. Now, I'm no expert on mosquito mating but living in a swamp country, trust me I've seen my fair share of them doing the do both on and off the air. $\endgroup$ – Tero Apr 7 at 18:48
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Most likely like the Mountain Banshee.

enter image description here

These fictional creatures from the world Pandora seem to fit what you want, though here we should note they fly in a planet with lower gravity and denser atmosphere, meaning they have an easier time than our birds and could grow larger.

So for your creature to develop powered flight using all 4 limbs, the tail would likely be converted into a means of adjusting trajectory rather than an additional wing, as we see our birds doing just fine with only 2, let alone 4. The hind limbs would likely be modified to be as flexible as the front ones and both the muscles and pelvic bone would need to undergo drastic changes to have an underside resembling the bird keel and pectoral bones.

To end this, I'd say there's a good chance they'd resemble pterosaurs and modern bats on certain aspects, like keeping fingers on all limbs and walking in a quadrupedal stance, which seems like it would make more sense to as it'd allow them to have a more stable stance and keep their limbs closer to the body, thus protecting them better. We get a good look at this with the vampire bat, which is one of the bat world's greatest runners (yes they can "run") and a good climber and flyer. Notice how it keeps its forelimbs close to the body and its hind limbs bent, it's flight fingers are also bent tightly under the forelimbs.

enter image description here

Lastly, on how they'd use these wings, I do believe the front limbs would naturally do most of the job most of the time, with the hind limbs being likely more used to stabilize flight and add extra lift or thrust, much like the Banshees do in theit universe.

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    $\begingroup$ I would heavily recommend Not referencing David Peters' work, and would add that any information sourced form his blogs "reptile evolution" and "pterosaur heresies" should be avoided. For more information as to why, I recommend reading blogs.scientificamerican.com/tetrapod-zoology/… $\endgroup$ – Tero Apr 5 at 11:58
  • $\begingroup$ @Tero Oh my mistake, didn't know it was from him, I have heard of the guy's reputation though. $\endgroup$ – ProjectApex Apr 5 at 13:00

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