New Fossil Suggests All Sorts of Dinosaurs Could Have Had Feathers

Instead of scales, it seems that many of these prehistoric creatures actually had features, used to lure mates and keep warm. 

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A recently discovered species of dinosaur has lead researchers to believe these ancient creatures may have been feathery, rather than just plain old scaley. Scientists found hundreds of fossils of a new plant-eating dinosaur, Kulindadromeus zabaikalicus, in Siberia. This dino had both scales and feathers.

The animals lived 160 million years ago, during the Jurassic period and were found buried at the bottom of what was once a lake. The modest creature measured just under five feet long, had two thin legs, two very short arms and a long, scaly tail. On its arms and legs, it had "long filaments resembling downy feathers," but it couldn't fly.

In a study released by the Science journal, co-author Pascal Godefroit, a paleontologist at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences in Belgium, said: "Here, for the first time, we have found featherlike structures in a dinosaur is far from the lineage leading to birds." The dinosaur was believed to have used the feathers for insulation and to attract mates.

This discovery is particularly interesting as the Kulindadromeus zabaikalicus isn't related to birds. "This unexpectedly reveals that such feathers would likely have been present in most groups of dinosaurs," Darla Zelenitsky, a paleontologist at the University of Calgary in Canada, told Live Science. Researchers have long linked birds with dinosaurs and some even think that the vicious T-rex may have had feathers.

Now, the team behind the discovery will work to find more fossils of the dinosaur around the world.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.