New dinosaur discoveries (such as four-winged Changyuraptor) seem to come nearly every week these days, but few are this exciting.
Fossils of a new species from Siberia may be some of the best evidence yet that feathers were not restricted to the carnivorous theropods but were in fact a trait shared by all groups of dinosaurs.
Detailed in the journal Science today, Kulindadromeus zabaikalicus (Ka-LIN-da-DRO-may-us), was a small, 1.5m-long ornithischian dinosaur from the Jurassic of eastern Russia. Scientists led by Pascal Godfriet at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences in Brussels described the species from six skulls and hundreds of disarticulated skeletons they discovered.
In amongst the bones they found impression of a variety of different scale types as well as several different filaments, which they interpret to be feather-like structures similar to those seen on carnivorous dinosaur Sinosauropteryx. This species was the first dinosaur found with feathery filaments back in 1996.
But why is this significant you ask? The dinosaur family tree is split into two major branches: the saurischian dinosaurs (which include all the carnivores theropods and the long necked sauropods) and the ornithischians (which includes all the herbivorous duck billed and armoured dinosaurs).
So far around 40 species of feathered dinosaurs have been found, but the majority of these are carnivorous theropods (see a full list of feathered dinosaurs here).
Only two dinosaurs in the ornithischian branch (Tianyulong and Psittacosaurus) had previously been found with bristle- or filament-like structures which may or may not have been related to feathers. Based on this, some experts recently claimed that feathers were not widespread across all dinosaurs and were mostly an innovation of the theropods.
This new discovery may turn that idea on its head. Kulindadromeus has filaments that appear much more feather-like, and it’s also an early member of the entire ornithischian group. When you have an early member of a group that has feathers, it means it’s likely that its descendants would have had feathers too… CONTINUE READING