Feathers More Common Among Dinosaurs Than Previously Thought

By Gemma Tarlach | July 24, 2014 12:59 pm
Kulindadromeus zabaikalicus wanders the swampy lowlands of Jurassic Siberia in this artist's rendering. Image courtesy Andrey Atuchin.

New dinosaur Kulindadromeus zabaikalicus wanders the lake-dotted lowlands of Jurassic Siberia in this artist’s rendering. Image courtesy Andrey Atuchin.

A new dinosaur is ruffling a few feathers in the ongoing debate over when and why dinosaurs evolved plumage — and which dinosaurs were rocking the feathered look.

Feathers have been associated with several dinosaurs directly ancestral to birds. Additional studies have determined that some non-avian theropod dinosaurs — not directly ancestral to birds but still closely related — also had various types of plumage. Based on an older dinosaur not related to birds that was recently unearthed in Siberia, however, researchers believe many more dinosaurs — possibly all or most of them — had feathers. The newly described Siberian dinosaur, Kulindadromeus zabaikalicus, also helps paleontologists understand why feathers evolved at all.

Researchers described K. zabaikalicus for the first time today in Science based on hundreds of fossils, including six partial skulls, from two sites in Russia. The animal belongs to the Ornithischian order of dinosaurs and is several branches away from birds on the Dinosauria family tree. Fossil finds dated from the Middle to Late Jurassic, roughly 176-145 million years ago.

So many bones... K. zabaikalicus fossils from southeastern Siberia awaiting classification at the excavation site in July 2013. Photo credit: T. Hubin/RBINS

So many bones… K. zabaikalicus fossils from southeastern Siberia awaiting classification at one of two excavation sites in July 2013. The sites yielded hundreds of skeletons and six partial skulls of the bipedal Jurassic herbivore, which had both scales and feathers. Photo credit: T. Hubin/RBINS

K. zabaikalicus had both scales and feathers. Thanks to the excellent preservation of several of the fossils, researchers believe the dinosaur had several different types of scales and feathers that varied in size, location and complexity. The distribution and shape of the feather structures in particular suggest that K. zabaikalicus used its feathers as a means of insulation and possibly for signaling to other members of its species, such as potential mates. This find supports a growing amount of research that points to feathers evolving first to keep the animals warm and for display. Only much later in the fossil record did feathers play a role in flight.

Based on plant, insect and crustacean fossils found alongside the dinosaur, researchers believe it lived in a lakeside environment. The bipedal dinosaur was about 1.5 meters long and ate plants.

A handful of other Ornithischian dinosaur fossils have had evidence of quill and filament-like structures likened to proto-feathers, but many paleontologists had contended that only theropods had true feathers. Researchers behind today’s K. zabaikalicus paper, however, say the Siberian dinosaur is evidence that feathers were likely widespread throughout Dinosauria.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts
MORE ABOUT: dinosaurs, paleontology
  • michaeljashley

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  • Ralph Warth

    Count me in

  • FeatheredFiend

    I know the world was much warmer back then, but Russia was still likely to have been cooler compared to other places. It’s possible it just had feathers to keep warm, and some dinosaurs in other places didn’t. It’s a cool find, and also the reconstruction is cute, but it doesn’t necessarily mean all dinosaurs had feathers.

    • SixSixSix

      Actually the current Russian landmass was no where near where it is today. You would have track continental drift, collision and separation back to determine where it was at that time. Time changes, continents move.

  • Nedward Marbletoe

    five feet tall, walks upright, with feathers. nice!

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  • Brian Allan

    It would be an interesting place/time to visit…

    • Foxhanger

      Yeah, if you’d like to be eaten……

  • Wade Carmen

    I cannot imagine the sauropods, duckbills, and armored dinosaurs with feathers.

  • michael scott

    Dinosaurs and feathers didn’t evolve. There is a ton of true scientific evidence that GOD created the universe and everything in it. The Institute for Creation Research (ICR) has a great website with tons of true science articles that help people to see the truth about the earth, life on earth, space, etc. They also have a great monthly magazine called Acts and Facts that has wonderful science articles in it. The magazine is free, and anyone can receive every month in the mail if they order it. They also will send you emails of science articles regularly as well! I know that not everyone will agree with what I’ve said above, but people who are truly honest with themselves, when they read ICR’S science articles, they’ll realize that what is said in them is true and makes sense, even if they don’t agree with single detail concerning every remark that’s written in the articles. I don’t agree with every single detail or remark, but that doesn’t change the truth, and their articles speak the truth.

    • Foxhanger

      What you are talking about is creationism, and it has no place in science. Also, no where in the Bible does it say, God created the Heavens and the Earth AND DINOSAURS! Dinosaurs pre-date humans. If you creationists want to completely ignore the fossil record, you will never come up with a “scientific” explanation for how God created the earth in 7 days. Let’s face it, creationists interpret the Bible literally. That will NEVER allow for ANY rational scientific explanation of dinosaurs, humans, or anything else!

      • michael scott

        Fox, what you’re saying about GOD creating the universe having no place in science is totally illogical. And what you said about the Bible not saying that GOD created the heavens and the earth is wrong too. I wrote you a response last Monday, and for some reason, I don’t see it on disqus, so I don’t think you got it. The first chapter of Genesis mentions everything that GOD created, and the second chapter also says that His creation of the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. Gen. 2:4 also states that GOD created these things. The first chapter of John also tells us that GOD is the creator of everything; “All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:3). GOD isn’t some man made, so-called theory like the big bang, steady state, or evolution. True scientists know, and anyone who uses there intelligence correctly knows, that you can’t put GOD under a microscope or perform some manmade scientific experiment and figure out everything there is to know about GOD. His ways are past our understanding, and always will be because He is GOD, all-powerful and all-knowing. None of us humans, nor any other race of beings in the universe, will ever know all things and be GOD, for there is only one GOD. We’ll never be able to know and explain how GOD created the universe, and men and women who foolishly think that they can make the rules about so-called science, and say that GOD and creation has no place in science, are closed- minded and wrong. You seem to not like so-called creationists, but I don’t call myself a creationist. That sounds just as bad as evolutionist to me. I’m a 7th Day Adventist Christian who believes in GOD, not some manmade, falsely called, scientific theory. Some Christians may call themselves creationists, but not me. Your hostility towards me and others who believe in GOD and believe that He’s the creator of everything is wrong. Just because you don’t agree with me or them doesn’t make you right or better than me or them. Hostility doesn’t do you, me, or anyone else any good. GOD gave us all a free will to choose what we want to believe. I’ve made my choice, and I pray that you’ll seek GOD for yourself and see and realize that He is love, and that there’s no better way to live than to live in the peace of GOD. Then you’ll truly know that He is the creator of all things.

        • Foxhanger

          First of all, I NEVER said I was right OR better than you. That is YOUR insecurity. If you are going to make “scientific arguments” you better be able to support them. Frankly, I could have torn them apart, but chose not to in this forum (mainly because the argument would go on ad infinitum).

          Look, you are a religious man. It is obvious that you believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible (not everyone does, even religious scholars). Therefore, religion relies on faith. First, you have to believe there IS a God, then that he somehow dictated the entire Bible to people in our distant past. How else would anyone believe all the fantastical things that happen in the Bible (you know what they are, so I am not going to list any here). I have NO hostility towards you; I have different beliefs than you. It is YOU, and others like you who want to bend the truth to suit your beliefs (and may I add, proselytize).

          You are entitled to have your religious beliefs, but you are not satisfied to rely solely on your faith. Why do you feel it necessary to legitimize your faith with science? Science is the observation, experimentation, and proof that something exists. When carbon dating and other methods are used to date dinosaur bones, that is a fact. When the Bible was written they didn’t have carbon dating. The men who wrote the bible had never seen a dinosaur. Haven’t you ever heard of the three ages of dinosaurs–the triassic, cretaceous, and the jurassic? They were hundreds of millions of years before humans. Do your “religious beliefs” just discount any kind of scientific evidence? All of the “scientific evidence” you present is “the word of God”, and that is not by definition, science. So, what I really want to know is why are you so intent in turning your religious beliefs, which are faith-bound into science? Why do you you need that validation? All you have quoted is God. From a scientific viewpoint, no one KNOWS if God even exists. You BELIEVE he exists. There is a difference. Most people who are scientific may say that there MIGHT be a GOD, but as of yet it has NOT been proven.

          And, oh, by the way, why didn’t anyone ever mention a dinosaur in the Bible if they co-existed with man? I know you have an answer for this, but if the answer uses the word “God” in it, please don’t answer.

          Lastly, go somewhere and look up “The Epic of Gilgamesh”. It is a famous poem, the story of “The Great Flood” almost verbatim, but it was written in Mesopotamia in the 18th century BC, well before the Bible was written. Do you think perhaps one of the authors of the Bible was familiar with it and thought to include it in his work? The people who wrote the Bible were just men, writing history. That is MY Belief, because we have proof of the poem’s existence. But, I repeat, you have the right to your BELIEFS, but NOT my SCIENCE.

          • michael scott

            If your not showing hostility towards me, than I’m sorry for saying that. The way you write and use exclamation points, and some of the remarks you make give that impression. I’m not insecure; I have nothing to be insecure about, nor does GOD need me to prove He exists. He proves Himself without any help from me or anyone else, and doesn’t need me for that. Atoms and cells are proof that GOD exists. Atoms, cells, DNA, all these things are well structured and very organized in how they function. That could never happen on accident, or with many stages of slow processes supposedly building upon each other. Only
            in recent years has science discovered that everything we see is composed of
            things that we cannot see- tiny invisible particles called atoms, made up of
            electrons and protons, which are really not solids, but positive and negative
            charges of electricity. Whether he specifically understood it or not, the
            author of the book of Hebrews wrote about atomic structure, nearly 2000 years
            before it was discovered by scientists. Also, the word dinosaur didn’t exist when the Bible was written, so it wouldn’t be in the Bible. Job 39 & 40 talk about a creature that’s obviously extinct now, which could possibly be a so-called dinosaur. Leviathan is also mentioned in many parts of the Bible, which may also be one. But these creatures weren’t called dinosaurs back then. Another point, not every thing in the Bible is literal; JESUS didn’t literally mean that someone should cut off their right hand, or pluck out their right eye if they offend you. Some things are symbolic with spiritual and moral meaning, like those statements, and like His parables: “. . . the natural man receives not the things of GOD: for they are foolishness to him, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14). Another fact to consider is that radio carbon dating isn’t what many say it is. A prime example of this is when scientists did a radio carbon reading on the dried lava remains at Mount St. Helen in Washington about 20 years after the 1980 eruption, and the results they got were way way more than 20 years old. Besides the Bible, there’s other proof that humans and dinosaurs existed at the same time.

            In the early
            1920s, archaeologist Dr. Samuel Hubbard went to the Hava Supai area of the
            Grand Canyon in Arizona in search of Indian relics. He found what he was
            looking for: pottery, arrowheads, etc. But he also found more than he was
            looking for. On the walls of the canyon, he found some beautiful drawings made
            by the Indians that had inhabited that area long ago. And not just simple stick
            drawings, but elaborate and detailed drawings of cattle, sheep, oxen,
            dinosaurs, and buffalo. Yes, dinosaurs. Upon seeing these pictures of the
            dinosaur, Dr. Hubbard remarked: Taken all in all, the proportions are good. The
            huge reptile is depicted in the attitude in which man would be most likely to
            see it—reared on its hind legs, balancing with the long tail, either feeding or
            in fighting position, possibly defending itself against a party of men (as
            quoted in Verrill, 1954, pp. 155ff.). Remember: according to the teachings of evolution,
            dinosaurs and men did not exist together. But if that were true, how did the
            inhabitants of that region know how to draw them so accurately?!5
            Your argument about the Gilgamesh story is always used to refute the Bible when it comes to the Flood, but that story being written before Genesis was written doesn’t prove that the Biblical story of the Flood isn’t true. People passed down historical knowledge verbally, way before writing was invented. My faith isn’t blind. There’s plenty of evidence that proves that my faith in GOD is true. Anyone who believes something with blind faith is being foolish. JESUS showed Himself to His disciples after His resurrection, and their faith wasn’t blind either. You may believe that you can tear apart my true scientific beliefs, which are all a part of my belief in GOD (not something separate), and you may disagree with what I believe and say that it can’t be proven scientifically. That’s what you believe, but you can’t take away my knowing what GOD has done for me in my life, and how He’s proven Himself way beyond what I could ever have imagined, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. Never should anyone blindly follow someone or something without any proof that what they believe is true. I never bend the truth to suit my beliefs. GOD is the one who converts people, not me. I’m not afraid to tell people the truth, regardless of whether they believe me or not. That’s between GOD and individuals.May GOD bless you, and may you and I both seek to know only what is true with open and honest hearts. GOD bless you.

          • Foxhanger

            I still have never said that YOU do not have faith, YOU do not believe that God exists, etc. My only beef with you is that YOU won’t allow others their beliefs. I personally don’t care who or what you believe in as long as you are a good person and do not harm other humans or living things. I only expect the same. My world view and social construct may be as good as yours (although you will never believe it), but I do not try to force it on others. If you felt hostility from me, it is for that reason. I am one of the most peaceful, law-abiding, loving people on the planet. I don’t believe in guns or even hunting. I just believe that people should live their own lives, with their own beliefs and not try to force them on others.

          • michael scott

            Every time you respond to me, you make false accusations and judgments. I don’t force my beliefs on anyone. Who are you to say I don’t allow anyone to have their own beliefs. You say you’re a peaceful person, but some of your remarks to me, aren’t peaceful and loving. I haven’t made any derogatory remarks about you personally, but you have made plenty about me. You are the one who is insecure, and you put your insecurities onto me with false accusations when you don’t even know me. You accused me of saying that you said you’re better than me and that you think you’re right when I never said any of that. Your believing you’re right about what you believe is up to you, not me. I don’t know why you’re saying you never said that I don’t have faith when I never said you said I didn’t. It seems to me that you don’t understand my point of view, because you keep separating faith and science, as if they’re 2 separate things. You have the right to believe that, if that’s what you believe, but I don’t believe that, nor do I need use science to validate my faith. This is the last time I’m going to respond to you, because I’m not trying to argue with you. Believe what you want to. I’ll continue sharing my beliefs with others in a peaceful way, and enjoy others sharing what their beliefs are with me. I know many people whose beliefs are way different than mine, and that doesn’t stop me from being friends with them, or from talking with them. I’ve learned a lot of great things from them, and they’ve learned a lot of great things from me. Please take what I’m saying seriously, with an open mind, and stop making false judgments about me. Have a great day!

          • Foxhanger

            Now you’re just a hyprocrite. You proved that in your second sentence. You DO force your beliefs on everyone. What do you think all that writing above that went on and on an on was about? I also did not say the Bible was literal (are you dyslexic?); I said you and others take a literal interpretation of the bible. Like you, I will not write back. You are VERY close-minded and have no abiity to reason BEYOND that which is told to you in the bible , by the bible, and for the bible. Amen. You believe in god and believe the Bible is HIS word. There is nothing more I can say—-
            and won’t.

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