Most Dinosaurs May Have Had Feathers
First paleontologists discovered Archaeopteryx, a primitive bird-like theropod dinosaur (or perhaps a dinosaur-like bird). This find strongly supported the hypothesis that birds evolved from dinosaurs.
Over the last few decades paleontologists have been finding a host of feathered dinosaurs in China. Clearly feathers evolved in theropod dinosaurs as a group, and one branch of this clade lead to modern birds.
Still paleontologists were left with a question – how far back in the evolutionary history of dinosaurs did feathers develop? Each new discovery of a more distant theropod relative with feathers pushing back the common feathered dinosaur ancestor further into the past, also meaning that feathers were a more common feature among dinosaurs.
Now scientists may have discovered the most distant dinosaur with feathers yet, by far. In fact the new discovery, Kulindadromeus zabaikalicus, is in an entirely different branch of dinosaurs. Theropods are saurischians, while the new dino is an ornithischian, pushing back the common ancestor to the very root of the dinosaur clade.
Scientists have just announced in the journal, Science:
Here we describe a new basal neornithischian dinosaur from the Jurassic of Siberia with small scales around the distal hindlimb, larger imbricated scales around the tail, monofilaments around the head and the thorax, and more complex featherlike structures around the humerus, the femur, and the tibia. The discovery of these branched integumentary structures outside theropods suggests that featherlike structures coexisted with scales and were potentially widespread among the entire dinosaur clade; feathers may thus have been present in the earliest dinosaurs.
So some type of feather-like structures may have therefore been widespread throughout all dinosaurs. If further findings support this conclusion, we may need to change our image of the typical dinosaur into something more fuzzy.
Image source: BBC