'Fluffy' dinosaurs: discovery suggests most were feathered

Jul 25, 2014

Jurassic fossils 'completely change our vision of dinosaurs' – but not everyone is convinced

llustration by Mark Klingler/Carnegie Museum of Natural History via Getty Images

A new 'fluffy' dinosaur species has been discovered in Siberia, prompting palaeontologists to suggest that almost all dinosaurs may have been feathered, National Geographic reports.

Fossils found in Russia prove the two-legged, 4.5ft-long beaked dinosaur, Kulindadromeus zabaikalicus, had both feathers and scales.

The discovery "has completely changed our vision of dinosaurs," the study's lead author Pascal Godefroit of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Science told the BBC.

Scientists suggest the feathers evolved as a form of insulation, with some larger dinosaurs losing them as they grew older.  So, "instead of thinking of dinosaurs as dry, scary, scaly creatures, a lot of them actually had a fluffy, downy covering like feathers on a chick," said co-researcher Dr Maria McNamara.

Scientists previously believed that feathered dinosaurs only evolved in the middle of the Jurassic period, but these 150 million-year old fossils suggest that many of them had "small, fluffy, chick-like" feathers from the very beginning, the BBC's Pallab Ghosh says.

But some experts have doubts about this conclusion, saying the 'feathers' discovered in the fossils could be something else entirely. Dr Paul Barretts, a dinosaur researcher and head of the vertebrates and anthropology palaeobiology division at the Natural History Museum said they could just be "very unusual scales".

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