A T-Rex in Feathers is still a BAD ASS! A new species of feathered dinosaur discovered in southern Germany is reshaping the way we think about predatory dinosaurs. The fossil of Sciurumimus albersdoerferi, which lived about 150 million years ago, is the first evidence of feathered theropod dinosaurs that do not have a close relation to birds.
“This is a surprising find from the cradle of feathered dinosaur work, the very formation where the first feathered dinosaur Archaeopteryx was collected 150 years ago,” Mark Norell, chair of the Division of Palaeontology at the American Museum of Natural History, and an author on the new paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Theropods are bipedal, mostly carnivorous dinosaurs. Recent findings have led scientists to believe that many extinct theropods boasted feathers. But to now, this feathering has only been found in theropods that are classified as coelurosaurs. Sciurumimus is identified as a megalosaur, not a coelurosaur. Because the species is at the top of the evolutionary tree of theropods, it is likely that species stemming from Sciurumimus also had similar characteristics.
“All of the feathered predatory dinosaurs known so far represent close relatives of birds,” palaeontologist Oliver Rauhut notes. “Scirurumimus is much more basal within the dinosaur family tree and thus indicates that all predatory dinosaurs had feathers.”
The discovery of the fossil is not only unique because of its feathers. The skeleton is also the most complete predatory dinosaur ever found in Europe, providing a rare glimpse into the young dinosaur.
While adult megalosaurs reached about 20 feet in length and weighed in at more than a ton, the juvenile specimen of Scirumimus was only 28 inches in length. Rather than hunting other dinosaurs, it likely hunted insects and other small prey, as evidenced by the slender pointed teeth in the tip of the jaws.
“At this point, it will surprise no one if feather like structures were present in the ancestors of all dinosaurs,” Norell concludes.
This suspicion is only furthered by the discovered of a plant-eating dinosaur with feathers and scales discovered in Russia. The new dinosaur, Kulindadromeus zabaikalicus shows epidermal scales on its tail and shins, and has short bristles on its head and back. It also has complex feathers associated with its arms and legs.
“Our new find clinches it: all dinosaurs had feathers, or at least the potential to sprout feathers,” Dr. Pascal Godefroit from the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural History in Brussels notes.
Kulindadromeus was only about a meter long and sits low in the evolutionary tree of ornithiscian dinosaurs. The discovery suggests that feather-like structures were widespread in dinosaurs.
Sources: Science Daily, Scientific American