Monday, 25 February 2013

Did T. rex have feathers?

Can you imagine Tyrannosaurus rex with feathers? Because that’s what research suggests may be the case.

(Image Source IFLS )

In my last post ’Why Palaeontology?’ I stated one of the most significant findings of Palaeontology in the last 50 years was confirmation that birds are descended from therapod (meat eating, three toed) dinosaurs.

There are many similarities between therapod dinosaurs and birds.  Most of these similarities are anatomical, including:
  • a wishbone (fused collar bones)
  • three toed foot
  • three fingered hand
  • a half moon shaped wrist bone
  • hollow bones
  • and feathers.
Feathers are the most spectacular similarity that dinosaurs share with birds. The first time they were seen together was with the discovery of Archaeopteryx. It wasn't until the 1990's that more feathered fossils were found, in China. Hundreds more.
The Tyrannosaur family tree - Yutyrannus huali is the
largest of these 
found with feathers
(Image source Xing Xu et al.)

Some of the Chinese feathered dinosaurs knocked Archaeopteryx off its perch as the oldest feathered dinosaur. A study in 2012 looked closely at dating some of China’s earliest feathered dinosaur fossils. It concluded that many were present 161 million years ago, which is around 10-20 million years older than Archaeopteryx.

Feathered dinosaurs are usually small. Archaeopteryx was about the size of a crow. In 2012, however, a paper was published by Nature that described a huge feathered dinosaur, a distant ancestor of the iconic Tyrannosaurus rex, Yutyrannus huali.

Yutyrannus huali was over 9m long and roughly the same weight as a medium sized car. Yutyrannus huali had feathers when it was an adult. This is strong evidence that the infamous Tyrannosaurus rex may have also sported feathers as an adult. Over 6000kg of feathered killing machine. 

Despite this evidence artistic depictions and toys of T. rex seem slow to adopt the new feathery covering. I quite enjoy the idea of the giant meat-eater being covered in feathers, how about you?

Science Ruined Dinosaurs cartoon pictured can also be purchased as a T-shirt.

For further reading and images try the Wired Science article Giant Feathered Tyrannosaur From China.

1 comment:

  1. Hmm. Don't forget science also ruined the premise on which your illustration is based. T-Rex would have walked at an angle much more parallel to the ground.