Dinosaur Found in Russia Might Prove that All Dinosaurs had “Feathers”

la-sci-sn-feathered-dinosaur-20140724Kulindadromeus zabaikalicus

Could all dinosaurs have had feathers?

Up until this find in Russia it’s been debated if all Dinosaurs had feathers. Over 30 species of non-avian dinosaurs this have been confirmed, either from direct fossilized evidence of quills, or other indicators, such as quill knobs. All of those dinosaurs that were confirmed to be carnivorous theropods, like Velociraptor and the ancestors of birds. This might be proof that it occurred in all dinosaurs! A new dinosaurs has been found at a site called Kalinda on the banks of the Olov River in Siberia. The dinosaur, described in the journal, “Science”, was about five feet long, belonging to a group of  beaked dinosaurs known as ornithischia (herbivorous). Previously only flesh-eating dinosaurs were known to have had feathers, so this new find raises the possibility that all dinosaurs were this way.

The newly named dinosaur “Kulindadromeus zabaikalicus,” shows epidermal scales on its tail and shins, and short bristles on its head and back. The most astonishing discovery, however, is that it also has complex, compound feathers associated with its arms and legs.

But lets step back a bit and discuss the three branches of dinosaurs. The theropods were mostly bipedal carnivores which is believed to ultimately  given rise to the bird species, up to now all known dinosaurs with feathers were theropods of some sort. Those groups that are evolutionarily the closest to the birds are those with feathers, up until this point all carnivores . The sauropodomorphs, giant quadrupeds (mostly) are herbivores with long necks (Diplodocus being the best example), are the closets relatives of the theropods. The herbivorous ornithischians, which include everything else, including armoured forms, those with horns and spikes and all manner of odd headgear. This particular branch has both bipeds and quadrupeds. What is interesting to note is that soft tissues like scales and feather are rarely preserved and don’t show up in the fossil record. This leads to the possibility that many dinosaurs species may have had feathers, they just didn’t show up in the rock strata when being excavated.

changyuraptorChangyuraptor yangi

Second Example of feathered Species

A week earlier to this find a team of paleontologists from China, the United States and South Africa found and described a new species of a feathered dinosaur that lived in what is now northeastern China during the Cretaceous period, about 125 million years ago.

The new dinosaur, named Changyuraptor yangi, belongs to Microraptoria – a specific group of predatory four-winged raptorial dinosaurs.

These dinosaurs are dubbed ‘four-winged’ because the long feathers attached to the legs have the appearance of a second set of wings. The long feathers attached to the legs and arms of these creatures have led some scientists to propose that the four-winged dinosaurs were capable of flying.

At 1.3-meter-long, Changyuraptor yangi is the biggest of all four-winged dinosaurs.

Its well-preserved fossil was unearthed in the Liaoning Province of northeastern China.

According to a paper published in the journal Nature Communications, Changyuraptor yangi sported a full set of feathers cloaking its entire body, including the extra-long tail feathers.


North American Feathered Species

A  study in 2012, led by paleontologists Darla Zelenitsky from the University of Calgary and François Therrien from the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology, describes the first ornithomimid specimens preserved with feathers, recovered from 75 million-year-old rocks in the badlands of Alberta, Canada.

“This is a really exciting discovery as it represents the first feathered dinosaur specimens found in the Western Hemisphere,” says Zelenitsky, assistant professor at the University of Calgary and lead author of the study. “Furthermore, despite the many ornithomimid skeletons known, these specimens are also the first to show that ornithomimids were covered in feathers, like several other groups of theropod dinosaurs.”

The researchers found evidence of feathers preserved with a juvenile and two adults skeletons of Ornithomimus, a dinosaur that belongs to the group known as ornithomimids. This discovery suggests that all ornithomimid dinosaurs would have had feathers.

feathered-t-rexTyrannosaurus Rex

If other species of dinosaurs were covered with feathers, then museum models, often depicted with leathery, scaly skin, may need to be changed. Did the “T” Rex sport feathers? If he did what did he look like?

“Perhaps it’s better to represent them as big chickens,” Dr. Godefroit said. “Maybe T. rex was some kind of big chicken.”


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