The popular image of dinosaurs having thick leathery skin could be wrong, researchers are now saying. The discovery of a feathered dinosaur that is a distant relative to birds is leading many scientists to now say that all dinosaurs likely sported feathers, Science News reported.
Paleontologists had discovered feathered dinosaurs in the past, but after discovering a nearly complete fossilized skeleton of a specimen much further removed from its bird counterparts they now believe all dinosaurs may have looked that way. The newly found dinosaur is a member of a group of massive dinosaurs known as megalosaurs that had sharp teeth, claws and a large frame, Science News reported.
“It suggests that the ancestor of all dinosaurs might have been a feathered animal,” study author Mark Norell, a paleontologist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, told Science News.
The dinosaur’s skeleton was found in a bed of limestone with its back arched and mouth gaping, the scientists reported in the July 2 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Its bones were unbroken and still had bits of flesh that showed long, fine feathers anchored to its tail, the report said.
The squirrel-tailed dinosaur is the most primitive meat-eating dinosaur with feathers, National Geographic reported. Previously scientists had only found feathers on birdlike dinosaurs that evolved from the megalosaurs, and this finding challenges the image of dinosaurs as being overgrown lizards, the report said. It had been difficult for these researchers to find feathered specimens because it required finding bodies that had been completely preserved.
The new finding also extends the range where feathered dinosaurs were known to have lived, Science News reported. While nearly all feathered dinosaurs discovered until this point came from eastern Asia, excavators unearthed the fossil in southern Germany, the report said.