Dinosaurs With Feathers Discovered in Siberian Fossils


A new discovery: a Siberian expedition found fossils of dinosaurs with feathers in Russia. The finding of a new species could mean that feathered animals were widespread than previously thought. The researchers said the herbivorous dinosaur, which belongs to a beaked group known as Ornithischia, was five feet long. “The feathers may have been present in the earliest dinosaurs,” according to the researchers.

Pascal Godefroit, Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Science paleontologist and new study’s author, confirmed, “we have found a dinosaur outside of the theropod lineage” that had feathers. Ths finding could mean that feathers probably remained in the ancestors of theropods and ornithischians. These species split about 220 million years ago. Godefroit finished his comments by saying all the descendants of the common ancestor could have potentially had feathers.

The relics found in Russia are 150 million years old and the discovery completely changes our view of dinosaurs, according to the paleontologist. Called Kulindadromeus zabaikalicus, the creature had five strong fingers, short arms, long legs and a short snout. The fossil’s teeth showed adaptation for chewing plants.

Kulindadromeus zabaikalicus, the dinosaur’s name, means “Kulinda River running dinosaur.” Zabaikalicus is a reference to the region in Siberia where the animal was first discovered (Zibaikalsky Krai).

Dr. Maria McNamara, co-researcher in Siberia, said dinosaurs did not have dry skin, “A lot of them had a fluffy covering.” But the real challenge will be proving the theory, Godefroid thought, because researchers rarely find traces of feathers that have been fossilized.

He hoped other feathers may be seen in the fossils found elsewhere in Siberia, such as in six partial dinosaurs’ skeletons and a hundred or more fossilized bones that have been discovered in two different locations in Siberia.

As the paleontologist of Brussels, Belgium, said, Siberia is like “a dinosaur cemetery.” According to him, the creatures, which lived near what is now Kulinda River, died in a single event. Most of the fossils discovered were of juveniles.

Dr. Godefroit also said the museum models may need to be changed if other dinosaurs’ species did not have dry skin. He said that better models could be ones which represent the creatures as looking somewhat like big chickens. According to Dr. Godefroit, “Maybe Tyrannosaurus rex was some kind of big chicken.”

Mike Benton, a professor on Bristol University, was involved in the work and has another idea about fluffier dinosaurs. He said that the research does not mean that all of creatures had feathers, “especially the adult ones.” The professor said some the ancient animals may have lost feathers as they grew up or might have replaced them with scales.

For Benton, the key point is that all dinosaurs were warm-blooded and initially feathered. This is an affirmation of an idea that has prevailed for years. Godefroit completed, “Feathers are not a characteristic just of birds.”

Doctor on the Natural History Museum of London, Paul Barrett, has some doubts. He said that no bird has structures in any part of its plumage that biologists have used to understand the evolution of feathers.

In 2009 two dinosaur discoveries in China had hinted that the creatures had feathers. Jakob Vinther, who works as a paleontologist on the United Kingdom’s University of Bristol, said about the Siberian fossils discovered that had feathers that it “was great that these animals with ‘fluff’ are found outside of China.”

The feathers discovered in the fossils of Siberian dinosaurs could not have made the creatures fly like animals with wings. “That is all we can tell,” about the fossilized examples of feathers, according to Godefroit.

By Murillo Moret

The New York Times
National Geographic
U.S. National Library of Medicine

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