Did all predatory dinosaurs have feathers?

A 150-million-year-old predatory dinosaur fossil points to evidence that dinosaurs evolving into birds were not the only ones to have feathers.

H. Tischlinger\Jura Museum Eichstatt
Skeleton of Sciurumimus as found on a limestone slab.

Evidence has mounted in recent years that some dinosaurs gained feathers on their way to evolving into birds. But a new study suggests feathered dinosaurs were more prevalent.

The 150-million-year-old fossil of the predatory dinosaur Sciurumimus albersdoerferi is the first evidence of feathered theropod dinosaurs that were not closely related to birds.

"All of the feathered predatory dinosaurs known so far represent close relatives of birds," said study team member Oliver Rauhut, of the Bayerische Staatssammlung für Paläontologie und Geologie. "Sciurumimus is much more basal within the dinosaur family tree and thus indicates that all predatory dinosaurs had feathers."

Theropods were bipedal — walking on their hind legs. Most were carnivores. Many theropods are known to have had feathers, but none so far down at the base of the theropod's evolutionary tree.

The fossil, of a baby Sciurumimus, was found in Bavaria. Remains of a filamentous plumage were preserved, indicating that the whole body was covered with feathers, the researchers said in a statement. (The slender dinosaur also had a baby face, the researchers noted, with its eyes proportionately much larger than those of adults.)

"Under ultraviolet light, remains of the skin and feathers show up as luminous patches around the skeleton," said study co-author Helmut Tischlinger, from the Jura Museum Eichstatt.

"This is a surprising find from the cradle of feathered dinosaur work, the very formation where the first feathered dinosaur Archaeopteryx was collected over 150 years ago," said study team member Mark Norell, chair of the Division of Palaeontology at the American Museum of Natural History.

The discovery is detailed this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Copyright 2012 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.