March 1, 2017 1:23 PM EST

New technology that examines previously invisible body parts of the Anchiornis dinosaur could provide invaluable insight into the origin of the bird, according to a new study.

The study, published this week in Nature Communications, shows how the feathered dinosaur Anchiornis, which means “near bird,” has similar body functions to birds, including drumstick shaped legs and arms shaped like wings. Researchers used laser technology to examine the body shape of the Anchiornis, including soft tissues, which were previously unavailable for study, they said in a summary of their work.

Michael Pittman, a co-author of the study, told National Geographic the findings show “the broad extent to which bird-like dinosaurs were experimenting with their anatomy and functional capabilities before we had the first unequivocal gliding and flying birds.”

 

 

Write to Alana Abramson at Alana.Abramson@time.com.

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