Two exceptionally well-preserved fossils give a new picture of pterosaurs, flying reptiles, which are the days of dinosaurs.
Researchers believe that creatures have been feathers and have shown some brown blades with fingers.
Surprisingly, the feathers did not develop with birds or dinosaurs, but farther away.
Pterosaurs were dinosaurs' closest relatives and shared a common ancestor about 250 million years ago.
"We suggest – provisionally – that feathers come from much earlier than we thought," said Professor Mike Benton of the University of Bristol at BBC News.
The 160 million-year-old fossils from China are two different pterosaurs, one of which has recently been found.
Strange feathers of beings
In-depth analysis shows that both the fur – as previously suggested – flying reptiles were feathers like some dinosaurs, including teropods.
"If you saw these fluffy bits for themselves, I swear they're from the teropod dinosaur," said Professor Steve Brusatte of Edinburgh University, who was not part of the study.
"This means that the feathers were not bird innovations, not even the dinosaur's innovation, but first developed into a far farther ancestor.
"The age of the dinosaurs was full of all kinds of weird feather blankets!"
The researchers found that pterosaurs had four different coatings, such as fuzzy, turkey most of their body; and there are three kinds of fibers in the head and wings that resemble modern feathers.
Feathers and feathers have probably been important in heat regulation and aerodynamics.
"These pterosaurus structures make it a somewhat resembling a fruit ball or something like a fuzzy bitter creature," said Professor Benton, who was working with an exploration fellow with Chinese colleagues.
"They fly with large, outwardly wicked wings with a remarkable foil, a little like a bowl."
Flight to the Jurassic Skies
There are still questions about whether these are true feathers. If they are, it suggests that the feathers appeared millions of years earlier than before.
Alternatively, the feathers could develop twice during evolution.
The insects were the first group that achieved the ability to fly: they developed wings at least 320 million years ago.
Pterosaurs were the first vertebrate animals with a backbone network and developed during the flight about 230 million years ago.
The study is published in Nature Ecology & Evolution.
Follow Helen Twitter.