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Birds and dinosaurs: feather considerations

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From the Birding Community E-bulletin, August 2014:



A new dinosaur species discovered in Russia and described in Science last month has raised the possibility that feathers may have been far more widespread in dinosaurs than previously thought. This newly-found five-foot-long dinosaur belonged to a group of herbivorous, beaked dinosaurs known as Ornithischia, or "bird-hipped" dinosaurs.

All previously discovered feathered dinosaurs have been theropods. "For the first time, we have found a dinosaur [with featherlike structures] outside of the theropod lineage," said the article's lead author, Pascal Godefroit, a paleontologist from the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences.

Theropods and ornithischians split from one another about 220 million years ago, he said. "This means that feathers probably existed in the common ancestors of both lineages. This suggests that all the descendants of this common ancestor potentially could have feathers as well."

Featherlike structures may have coexisted along with scales and could have potentially been widespread among dinosaurs. Indeed, if other dinosaurs were covered with feathers, then the traditional view of these creatures, often depicted in museum models with scaly and leathery skin, could be in need of some drastic revision.

To read an abstract of this important article, see:

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