Just Say No To Feathered Tyrannosaurs

By Gemma Tarlach | June 6, 2017 6:00 pm
Feathered tyrannosaurs? No thank you. These dinosaurs didn't need no stinkin' feathers, and a new study backs me up. (Credit David Monniaux/Wikimedia Commons)

Feathered tyrannosaurs? No, thank you. These dinosaurs didn’t need no stinkin’ feathers, and a new study backs me up on that. (Credit David Monniaux/Wikimedia Commons)

It’s a good day here at Dead Things: A new study provides a nice big nail in the coffin of the notion that T. rex and its kin ran around all kitted out in feathers. Lovers of old-school, scaly dinosaur renderings, rejoice!

Maybe I’m showing my age, but when I was learning about dinosaurs they were tail-dragging, vaguely reptilian, monochromatic lugs. You had your gray dinosaur, your green dinosaur and usually a brownish-tan one. Maybe some blobby dots or stripes, if the book you were reading was a bit out there.

Those 20th century notions have gone extinct as science has advanced — paleontologists recently figured out, for example, that at least some dinosaurs shared the same coloration pattern as Great White sharks.

But with the discovery that birds descended from one branch of the dinosaur family tree, and the unearthing of the first feathered dinosaurs a couple decades ago, some people — researchers, artists and ordinary dino-philes — have taken the whole BigBirdosaurus thing Way. Too. Far.

I am still emotionally scarred by a Pinterest post I saw of T. rex flaunting the plumage of a bald eagle. No. Just no.

Billed as a "modern scientific reconstruction of Tyrannosaurus rex, this guy already needs an update thanks to today's study which strips the fanciful feathers off the famous dinosaur. (Credit RJPalmer/Wikimedia Commons)

Billed as a “modern scientific reconstruction of Tyrannosaurus rex,” this 2016 rendering already needs an update thanks to today’s study. (Credit RJPalmerArt/Wikimedia Commons)

So it is with great delight that I share with you a new study that strips the fanciful feathers off tyrannosaurs — including the most famous of them all, T. rex — and concludes that these mighty predators had scaly skin after all.

It’s All About The -Id

But wait, what about Yutyrannus? You may remember that, a few years back, paleontologists unearthed a trio of Yutyrannus, a very large (more than 20 feet long) and very feathered tyrannosauroid from China’s Early Cretaceous (about 125 million years ago to be more precise). Yutyrannus is the largest known feathered animal of all time, which is cool, I suppose, if you’re into that sort of thing, but I blame its discovery for really kicking the feathered T. rex folly into high gear.

Artist's rendering of a pack of Yutyrannus surrounded by smaller but equally fluffy dinosaurs. (Credit Brian Choo)

Artist’s 2012 rendering of a pack of Yutyrannus surrounded by smaller but equally fluffy dinosaurs. (Credit Brian Choo)

Yutyrannus was a big deal because the other feathered dinosaurs in the fossil record have been significantly smaller.

The thinking was (and still is) that feathers first evolved in dinosaurs not for flight or showy peacockery displays but for insulation. Smaller animals don’t generate as much body heat, so they need more insulation — in this case, more feathers. Bigger animals generate more body heat and would be more concerned with shedding it to avoid overheating.

So finding the great feathery beast that is Yutyrannus was a bit of shock. (Technically, Yutyrannus had a coat of primitive, filamentous feathers that would have appeared almost fur-like, rather than the advanced, much more structured feathers of modern birds.)

Although paleontologists have never found a T. rex with evidence of feathers, once Yut turned up in all its Early Cretaceous feathered glory, it was logical to think that later tyrannosaurs, T. rex of the Late Cretaceous included, might also be rocking the fluffy stuff. Feathers are an advanced, or derived trait, and derived traits, once established, usually (but not always) stick with an evolutionary lineage.


There is a big difference between a tyrannosauroid like Yutyrannus and a tyrannosaurid like T. rex. A difference of several million years of evolution, to put a finer point on it. Which brings us to today’s paper.

Take It Off, Take It All Off

Think of “-oids” as  something like but not quite: humans versus humanoids in every cheesy sci-fi show ever, or hominins (us, and our immediate evolutionary kin) and hominoids, which include all the hominins plus apes, chimpanzees and orangutans.

There is quite a difference in furriness between us and our closest living relatives, bonobos and chimps, and we’ve only been separated from them, genetically speaking, for a few million years. Consider the amount of diversity possible over tens of millions of years.

Writing today in Royal Society Journal Biology Letters, researchers compiled the first ever detailed analysis of tyrannosaur skin from multiple specimens, as well as a new dataset tracking tyrannosaur body size and type of skin covering from existing specimens spanning much of their evolutionary history.

The team concluded that, while at least some of the early tyrannosauroids (like Yutyrannus) were feathered, by the time tyrannosaurids had evolved more than 20 million years later, they appear to have lost all the fuzzy stuff.

The big question, still to be answered definitively, is why later tyrannosaurids lost the fine feathers of their distant, more primitive tyrannosauroid ancestors.

(Note: we can’t say tyrannosauroid A is the direct ancestor of tyrannosaurid B because the fossil record is just not that complete, but it’s similar to looking at modern humans and then back at, say, the australopiths such as Lucy and South Africa’s Little Foot. They may or may not be our great-grandparents, but they are at least great-aunts and uncles, and represent the general course of evolution that led to our species.)

Some more nope-a-saurus. (Credit Matt Martyniuk/ Wikimedia Commons)

Some more nope-a-saurus. Back to the drawing board, fella. (Credit Matt Martyniuk/ Wikimedia Commons)

One of the co-authors of today’s study is University of Alberta paleontologist Scott Persons, a long-time friend of Dead Things and a great explainer who makes my job easy. So tell us, Scott, what’s going on with the feather loss as tyrannosaurs evolved — were they just too embarrassed to be so fuzzy?

“It seems like a step ‘backwards,’ but evolution doesn’t work with any kind of master plan in mind,” says Persons. “For whatever reason, T. rex and its close relatives were better off without a feather covering. It seems likely that the explanation has to do with needing to readily lose body heat, rather than retain it. If you are a big animal running around in the direct sunlight of an open tropical flood plain, you are probably better off ditching your down coat.”   

 While Yutyrannus was as big as many of the later, feather-free tyrannosaurs, it lived in a cooler climate and what may have been a forested, shady environment, which might explain why it kept its coat on. 

“Many modern big terrestrial mammals have secondarily lost their extensive covering of hair — think elephants, rhinos, hippos, and Cape buffalo,” Persons explains. “But there are exceptions. Modern Asian rhinos and elephants have more hair than their African cousins, because they live in shady forests with less direct exposure to the sun.”

Body plan may have also been a factor. While we can laugh all we like at the tiny forelimbs of tyrannosaurs, the later ones like T. rex were leggy beasts in the back end, which suggests they were adapted to run — which in turn implies a fairly high activity level and the generation of more body heat. In comparison, Yutyrannus may have been more of a couch potato in need of comfy sweats and a hoodie.

“It does have relatively shorter legs, which indicates less running ability,” Persons says of Yutyrannus. “By engaging in less vigorous or frequent athletic activities it might have typically generated less body heat and avoided putting itself in situations where it needed a rapid cooldown. Or it might have evolved some compensating method of heat loss that we don’t have any clue about based on the fossil record.”

Show Me Some Skin

The team’s detailed analysis of existing specimens of later tyrannosaur skin revealed that it resembles that of duckbilled dinosaurs, which are not closely related. There are numerous fossilized skin samples sitting in museums and identified as belonging to duckbilled dinosaurs, but it may be time for a rethink on that, too.

“I bet you that at least a few tyrannosaur skin impressions had been found before but got misidentified as those of a duckbill,” says Persons.

See this? This is a hunk of real fossilized tyrannosaur skin and it's scaly, with no sign that it was ever covered in feathers. (Credit: Amanda Kelley)

See this? This is a hunk of real fossilized tyrannosaur skin and it’s scaly, with no sign that it was ever covered in feathers. As it should be. (Credit: Amanda Kelley)

Persons also noted that just because the team ruled out fully-feathered adult tyrannosaurids, it doesn’t mean their babies weren’t covered in downy feathers, which would have provided heat retention, crucial for small, young animals. We just don’t have the fossils yet to know for sure. And even the grown-ups may have been sporting some feathery stuff. Just a little.

“I would wager they still probably had some feathers, maybe a few on their faces, acting like eyelashes or short whiskers,” Persons says. “And it is conceivable that they had localized patches of feathers or even feather crests. But not extensive feather coverings.”

Okay, I can live with that… Wait. Now I have the mental image of T. rex batting its lashes at me. Shudder.

That's better. Nice and feather-free, just the way I like my T. rex. But about that tail-dragging... (Credit Universal Pictures/Amblin Entertainment)

That’s better. Nice and feather-free, just the way I like my T. rex. But about that tail-dragging… (Credit Universal Pictures/Amblin Entertainment)

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts
  • JJ Giesey

    Opinions never matter over science, and t.rex and yutyrannus are about as closely related as elephants and mammoths, they’re not at all distant, and feathers in dinosaurs is just as about as ancestral as hair in mammals, the new evidence is quite weak and unsurprising, keep in mind it’s probably not even scales, they are likely areas that bore feathers and had molted, we know for a fact that rex wasn’t completely scaly, we found a patch of skin, not feathers or scales, but patchless skin, this most likely was feathers that had molted off, and a tiny skin patch isn’t ground breaking evidence, especially ones that haven’t even been published. You’re argument is invalid, a vast majority of scientists and intelligent people know for certain t.rex had feathers https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uM5JN__15-g , you were too ignorant to listen because “Oh my childhood would be ruined.” Science never cared about it, never will.

    • Peter Apps

      “and t.rex and yutyrannus are about as closely related as elephants and mammoths,”

      Mammoths were hairy, elephants are naked – so where does this take us ?

      • Christopher DiPiazza

        Elephants have lots of hair. It’s just short.

        • Peter Apps

          This makes about as much sense as saying “I have lot’s of money, it’s just in small denominations.” If you look at an elephant you see skin, if you look at a picture of a mammoth you see hair.

          • Christopher DiPiazza

            So it’s okay if T. rex had feathers, just as long as you can’t see them?

          • Peter Apps

            Invisible feathers would have had the same effects as insulation or display as no feathers at all. What I am trying to point out is that elephants vs mammoths throws no useful light on whether T. rex had feathers.

          • Christopher DiPiazza

            You are wrong. Feathers are not the same as mammalian hair and absolutely can serve an animal that has them even at large sizes. Unlike fur, feathers can help thermoregulate an animal in cold or hot environments. It’s why birds that live in tropical or desert environments are just as visibly covered as those in arctic ones. (Of course there are detailed differences between different kinds of feathers on different birds but I hope you understand my point)

          • Peter Apps

            Please actually read this and try to understand it before you reply.

            What am I wrong about ? Are you honestly suggesting that feathers that are so small and sparse as to be invisible serve as insulation ? I never said that fur and feathers are not different – obviously they are. It was not me who originally drew the parallel between mammoths vs elephants and dinosaurs, but you seem set on a course of accusing me of being wrong about statements that I have not made.

          • JJ Giesey

            But you did treat the function of feathers was merely insulation, and Hell Creek, t.rex’s environment at it’s hottest was 64 degrees Fahrenheit, that isn’t hot at all, and we know this from yutyrannus living in a just as warm environment, and yutyrannus was covered in feathers at the very least down to it’s ankles.

          • Peter Apps

            Let me quote from one of my own posts in this thread; “Invisible feathers would have had the same effects as insulation or display as no feathers at all.”

            Do you see those words after “insulation” ?, they say “or display”. Display as in show off, demonstrate etc.

            So I did not treat the function of feathers as merely insulation as you claim. I included display in my argument.

            I had better point out that I was being facetious when I included display – it is glaringly obvious that anything that is invisible cannot possibly be a visual display.

          • JJ Giesey

            Yes, but rex’s coloration probably didn’t include any bright colors, think about it, all strong big predators have very boring colors, even if it was for mating season, bright colors are very detrimental to hunting. Even if it was for a season. I would say it’s pretty safe to assume rex had zero colorations all year around.

          • Peter Apps

            How is colour relevant ? Invisible feathers are invisible, no matter what colour they are !!!Facetious alert, just in case this sets you off on another tangent !!! .

          • JJ Giesey

            Rex had feathers, name ancestral evidence and direct evidence from t.rex that make feathers an impossibility, these skin patches are so minuscule that it’s like using a single scale patch 25% the size of a penny of an emu to prove it’s a entirely scaly animal. And I disagree with the short feathers/invisible feathers. So yes, invisible feathers seems farfetched and doesn’t suit evidence we have.

          • Peter Apps

            Lets apply the same logic to mammoths and elephants – we know mammoths were hairy but suppose that we had only a little bit of elephant skin as evidence that elephants were naked. By the same logic that you apply to T. rex we would conclude that elephants were hairy – but they are not..

          • DylanDino2016

            Peter Apps Name one reason why T.rex would’ve lost it’s ancestral feathers…

          • Christopher DiPiazza

            “Mammoths were hairy, elephants are naked – so where does this take us ?”

            Assuming Trex would not have had visible feathers…or was “naked” because elephants are “naked” is wrong.

          • Peter Apps

            But I never made the assumption that T. rex was naked because elephants are naked, so why are you telling me that it’s wrong ? Tell JJ Giesey, who did draw the parallel.

      • JJ Giesey

        Elephants are extremely aquatic, making a lack of hair. That’s why they seem to have not much hair.

        • Peter Apps

          Aquatic elephants ? Maybe you are thinking of whales ?

          • JJ Giesey

            No, elephants commonly go in the water http://www.zastavki.com/pictures/1680×1050/2011/Animals_Beasts_Elephants_in_the_water_029720_.jpg https://thumbs.dreamstime.com/x/elephants-playing-muddy-water-4040170.jpg A rex would only go in the water if it needed to, and I guess i did misword that, elephants as a group are no strangers to water, while tyrannosaurs as a group are. Name some good evidence to suggest that tyrannosaurs frequently went in the water.

          • Peter Apps

            So do otters and seals which have fur, so what’s your point ?

            Also, you have shifted from “extremely aquatic” to “commonly go in the water”.

          • JJ Giesey

            Because I had noticed I made a environment mistake. Your arguments aren’t very strong.

          • Peter Apps

            So counter them with stronger ones then – 4 days ago you asserted that elephants and mammoths are as closely related as two species of dinosaurs were, which was subsequently disputed. I questioned the relevance of this assertion to a discussion of whether T, rex had feathers. Instead of explaining the relevance you digressed into elephants’ liking for water, which you initially overstated. Unless T. rex was also as aquatic as you seem to think that elephants are, elephants not having a lot of hair is utterly irrelevant to whether T. rex had feathers.

          • JJ Giesey

            The scientific paper about the skin coverings had made the poor comparison between the two, and a better analogy would be that rex would have feathers, whales have had hair ever since they evolved from their land ancestors, and guess what? Modern whales evolved from them about 55 million years ago, and they still have them today, after all that evolution, they still have them, and it’s been well over 80 million years for all birds, and guess what? Not a single one is featherless, and more on whales, they did it in a environment where it is entirely useless, to prove a member of a family didn’t have the trait, you need pretty big proof, and I highly suspect the scales on the body are just the scales inbetween the feathers, yutyrannus is 60 millions of years away from rex but no other theropod inbetween them has opposing or benefical evidence to rex, and using phylogenetic bracketing, t.rex had feathers. It doesn’t matter what opinons are, and did you even read my reply properly? I had stated tyrannosaurs as a whole were strangers to water and only swam through it when they needed to.

          • Peter Apps

            Your resorting to the few residual hairs on whales and elephants is sophistry. Neither of these taxa have hair that functions in display or insulation – their hair is reduced to sensory whiskers and a fly swat.

            I don’t recall your ever referring to T. rex’s aquatic habits, and since todays large animals (rhinos, hippos, elephants, whales) that are functionally naked live both on land and in the water I am not sure that it is relevant.

    • https://tyrannoninja.wordpress.com/ Brandon Pilcher

      “t.rex and yutyrannus are about as closely related as elephants and mammoths”

      The ancestors of woolly mammoths and Asian elephants diverged around six million years ago. Yutyrannus lived over sixty million years before T. rex. So this is wrong.

  • Zakalwe

    Fascinating paper. There’s clearly a huge amount of work yet to be done. There’s very little doubt that T Rex is closely linked to modern birds (based on soft tissue analysis alone), so to find it appears to have had no feathers is an incredibly interesting postulation.

    • JJ Giesey

      No, this new finding is very blown out of the water, as what media tends to do https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CxE68c9rYa0 Feathered rex is still definitely a go and even the people who made the scientific paper even say this.

  • OWilson

    Lack of evidence leads to speculation.

    Speculation as always fun, but still speculation.

    Great article.


    • temporary guest

      Evidence is irrelevant to true speculators. For example, if enough people speculate that trees and grass are actually purple, then the vanishing minority of people who believe that trees and grass are actually still green can find themselves in a great deal of trouble.

      “Wahl, I remember when a man was a man, a woman was a woman, and a fella didn’t have to be afraid to say so to anybody!” ~ If I knew who said that, I wouldn’t tell. I wouldn’t want to be the reason that fella got sued into the stone age by speculators who see a different reality.

      • OWilson


  • Doug Dobney

    More evidence against the dinosaur to bird theory. But another great opportunity for stories.

    • Joseph Daniel

      No, this provides no evidence against the dinosaur to bird theory at all. It has nothing to do with it. Even if fully grown tyrannosaurs did not have feathers, it does not negate the mountain of evidence of feathers on other theropods, especially the ones more closely related to birds, nor does it say anything about the very long list of other anatomical details that tied birds to dinosaurs even before feathered dinosaurs were found.

      • Doug Dobney

        You are incorrect. But not worth arguing. The basal Paraves (“closely related to birds”) that have feathers are in fact not related to theropods.

        • Joseph Daniel

          You have any evidence to support your assertion that goes against virtually every study published in the past several decades? Pardon me if I accept the evidence presented by hundreds of studies over your claim with zero supporting evidence.

          • Doug Dobney

            You accept the evidence but you are not actually familiar with the evidence. Your acceptance is based on faith.

          • Joseph Daniel

            Well that is just stupidly ignorant. You have no idea who I am. In point of fact, no faith is required because I have indeed seen the evidence first hand. I am familiar with the evidence and have no reason to disagree with the conclusions of the many published studies. You on the other hand, speak like a zealot whose believe cannot be shaken by any amount of evidence. If you could, you would at least try to present the evidence that convinced you.

          • Doug Dobney

            As I said, not worth arguing.

          • JJ Giesey

            Doug Dobney you mean more on how you don’t argue due to your ignorance?

          • Doug Dobney

            People might benefit from looking at the published material about Dilong and Yutyrannus.
            The filaments “are too densely packed for it
            to be possible to determine whether they are elongate broad filamentous
            feathers (EBFFs) like those seen in the therizinosauroid Beipiaosaurus,
            slender monofilaments, or compound filamentous structures.”

    • Doug Dobney

      The filamentous integumentary structures are too densely packed for it to be possible to determine whether they are elongate broad filamentous feathers (EBFFs) like those seen in the therizinosauroid Beipiaosaurus,
      slender monofilaments, or compound filamentous structures.

  • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz4.htm Uncle Al

    Youtube v=IYFr3UyVpRA Modern dinosaur absent the K-T extinction – and why we cannot see them.

  • Joseph Daniel

    No, unless most scientists have taken a giant step backward in the past year or two, the current consensus is not that feathers evolved for insulation. That is actually not really possible if one looks at the physics of the earliest stages, which would not help insulate at all and could even be counterproductive to it. The current consensus is that feathers initially evolved for display and then later developed the insulation properties as they got denser (although it would be interesting to do an actual survey to get data on what the true consensus really is, despite what the evidence actually supports). I normally like reading Dead Things, but this was by far the worst and most obviously biased article I have ever read here. While it would be easy to poke holes in the story, when the story is so emotionally biased, there seems little point, as no valid criticisms will sink through the confirmation bias. Your personal preference for scaly tyrannosaurs so overwhelms your reporting of the science that it makes it difficult to actually pay attention to the science.

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  • Mike Richardson

    I like the idea of fluffy baby T-rexes, losing their downy insulation as they become the tough scaly terrors portrayed (apparently fairly accurately) in Jurassic Park. That too may be speculation, but it would make sense of size played a role in the need for extra insulation. It is interesting that some fairly large species did sport some plumage, but comforting in a way to see that the iconic Tyrannosaurus Rex looks more like its recent big screen incarnations than a really big chicken with teeth (at least as an adult).

    • JJ Giesey

      When feathers molt off, scales don’t come back, that’s like saying a plucked chicken will grow scales where it lost it’s feathers. And this video will help explain the new scientific paper https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CxE68c9rYa0

  • Christopher DiPiazza

    You are aware that the skin patches from the new paper (did you actually read it btw?) have been known for like 20 years right? Nowhere in the paper does it suggest rex was featherless…because the experts still think it probably wasn’t. Also look at interviews with them they say it outright. Yet because of poorly written headlines like this, we get secret Jurassic park nostalgia fans coming out of the woodwork shouting “science!” Looking at modern birds and other dinosaur fossils we know feathers and scales can grow amongst each other. But they don’t necessarily preserve under the same conditions. Tyrannosaurus was a coelurosaur theropod. We have proof of feathers on at least one specimen of every coelurosaur branch, including the one rex was on. Therefore, even with skin patches (nobody ever doubted Rex had scales btw all dinosaurs havem) still was more than likely feathered.

    • OWilson

      Star Trek, Jurassic Park, Butthead and Beaver, and The Simpsons fans are alive and well in current culture.

      I’m afraid that influence dominates a lot of what passes for science these day.

      Bill Nye IS the Science Guy! :)

      • temporary guest

        Yes. That is very unfortunate.

      • Necromancer

        Kind sir, it is beavis and butthead.

        • OWilson

          Forgive me!

          I’ll post my apology to Scientific American!

    • GemmaTarlach

      Abstract: “extensive feather coverings observed in some early tyrannosauroids were lost by the Albian, basal to Tyrannosauridae.” (Let me know if I need to explain Albian, or basal.) Discussion (first paragraph): “Tyrannosaurids do not, therefore, exhibit the widely distributed filamentous feathers present in Dilong and Yutyrannus, where scales are unknown.” I always read the paper, and always before I write the story. Which is also why I never implied that the specimens were new.

      • Christopher DiPiazza

        That was from the abstract. The paper focuses on the scales. On top of this the researchers, themselves, have said numerous times this doesn’t negate feathers (beyond what you covered) Yet your article is basically you celebrating how you think Nostalgiarex is a thing again. Yes, you didn’t outright say these skin patches were new, but you didn’t
        exactly clarify they have been on the fossil record for about 20 years
        either. It’s misleading. And people are reading it (and lots of other sensationalized internet articles today) and getting the wrong idea.

        • GemmaTarlach

          I noted the line from the abstract as being from the abstract. I noted the line from Part 4, Discussion, as being from the Discussion part of the paper. I also read all the stuff in between. Regardless, I don’t have any emotional investment in dinosaurs having feathers or not having feathers. I don’t care. If and when the fossil record produces a feathered T. rex, I will write about it (and likely make some cheap jokes then as well). Have a good day.

          • Fenrir Wolf

            I’m sorry, but that’s some extraverted spin-doctoring right there, very manipulative of you. Not only were you passive-aggressive and leading in your responses, but you wrote lines like — and I quote — ‘Some more nope-a-saurus.’ That shows investment.

            Now, either you’re invested in the nostalgic tropes, or you’re the kind of extravert who’s far too invested in trolling and baiting people. Which? I can’t say for sure, but you’re clearly invested and very defensive about not having fully done your research.

            And before someone says that extraverts aren’t sociopathic enough to troll and bait like that? The opposite is true.


            And if you’re that kind of troll? Consider me baited, I guess. I just despise regressivist, traditionalist misinformation. 9/11 wasn’t an inside job, the world isn’t flat, and tyrannosaurs had both feathers and scales.

            Now if only people would stop being so easily misled.

      • JJ Giesey

        GemmaTarlach This video right here explains why this article is misinformed to say the least https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CxE68c9rYa0 I recommend deleting this article as it misinformed many and still could, and that is very damaging to the paleontology community.

        • GemmaTarlach

          This guy has his own vested interest in dismissing the paper, and I’m going to go with co-authors Currie and Bakker, in whom I have greater faith than a YouTube dude. I went over the paper’s conclusions with one of the co-authors before writing the story and specifically asked him if I had it right and wasn’t overstating it. He said it was right. I know the general topic riles people up, and I know no matter how I wrote the story, feathers would have been… ruffled. Arr arr arr. Can’t resist a cheap shot, can I? In any case, show me evidence of feathers on a Late Cretaceous tyrannosaurid. Please. When you do, I will happily accept the science. (Maybe one has been found. I am not aware of it, but if it’s out there, I’d like to know. I will learn something and be happy to do so.) The truth is, I am not at all emotionally invested in this. If science proves T. rex had feathers, okay, I’ll go along with it. It will not “ruin my childhood” as another poster suggested I feared. Have a good day.

          • OWilson

            Methinks he protests too much!

            I’d say we don’t know a lot about the creatures, all we have is fossils (rock), “artist’s impressions”, and plastic models, like the one in his video.

            Best to keep an open mind on such things, and not close it prematurely! :)

          • JJ Giesey

            We have found on occasion amazing finds more than just bones http://www.nationalgeographic.com/photography/proof/2017/05/nodosaur-fossil-discovery-science-photography/ and since birds are dinosaurs, this one counts http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/06/baby-bird-dinosaur-burmese-amber-fossil/ , it has sadly been recently forgotten and overshadowed by this and other toxic news sites exploding with this “new” information they and the writers of the articles know nothing about.

          • OWilson

            For the record, your NatGeo article was about a fossil (hard mineral replacement of once living tissue).

            You can study it and the various impressions left behind like skin imprints and footprints, but you still should be careful of validating a hypothesis from scant findings.

            A living body changes composition after death and weathering, and certain features do not fossilize.

            Even molting may leave no evidence.

            It’s your certainty, that intrigues me!

          • JJ Giesey

            GemmaTarlach Sure there isn’t much evidence, but that’s because we really don’t know at all about the skin coverings on tyrannosaurs, and ancestral traits RARELY, if they even do fade away, feathers were very ancestral to tyrannosaurs, whales have kept their hair, and whales do it in a environment were it’s entirely useless and unnecessary, and whales had hair double the amount of time inbetween rex and yutyrannus, and the paper used a bad job at saying why rex wasn’t feathered, feathers do a better job at regulating heat and some desert birds, they actually use their feathers to cool off, and the scientific made a bad comparison of elephants to tyrannosaurs, elephants are herbivores, herbivores have a longer gut system and thus producing more heat, and elephants are aquatic, FAR from tyrannosaurus, the only similarities they have is size, and that’s a pretty poor reason, another study showed rex would’ve gotten rid of heat at a rate of a 6 ton elephant, despite being a lot bigger, and scales and feathers can exist with eachother, and the new scale patches are so miniscule, they could just be the scales inbetween the feathers, even yutyrannus had scales inbetween it’s feathers on a equally sized patch on a specimen. This discovery isn’t revolutionary, and won’t change much, extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof, and even if you’re joking, that still doesn’t minimize the impact this article could/had make/made, I recommend removing the article even if it was a mere joke, the paleontology community hates people that bandwagon to joke but in actuality, misinform the public, this isn’t a game it never been no show.

          • Fenrir Wolf

            Except the paper doesn’t say what you want it to say, Gemma. You’re still making misleading arguments.

        • Sam Biswas

          Thank god I’m not alone.

          • JJ Giesey

            I’m pretty sure that picture was a really early one in the feathered t.rex renaissance

        • JD Meier

          What do you think about the validity of this artists depiction? Is there evidence to suggest any sexual dimorphism? Ex: Is it possible that the value of plumage may not be purely valuable as a means survival, but rather as a means of attracting mates? i.e. Males having ostentatious plumage while females remain with little plumage?

          • JJ Giesey

            The rex in the picture needs lips, thing would have all teeth rotted out by then. And sexual dimorphism between tyrannosaurs would be speculation. But not the most farfetched Idea.

        • Eric Samuel Olson

          Hate to burst your bubble, But somebody already proved Trey The Explainer to be the Misinformed one. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y89wkWYOXgI&t=2s

      • JD Meier

        “Take if Off, take it all off” went too far: My assumption was that you used that sentence as a literary tool not as the literal : take every single feather(filamentous and down) off the models. From my understanding of the papers, there is still evidence to suggest that the T. rex may have had filamentous feathers especially on the dorsum of the the T. rex.

      • Nikki Lee

        Thankfully, I gathered from the context of your writing that this article was questionable at best. This kind of writing does not make “Discover” magazine seem like a reliable source.

        • DylanDino2016


  • David Atkins

    Perhaps T-Rex was mostly scaly, but males grew feathers during mating season? And T-rex was born with a downy covering but grew out of it as it matured? It appears that T-Rex had both scaly skin and feathery skin – with the caveat that earlier specimen feathers were more akin to hair, and now we are discussing to what extent they had both feathers and scales.

    No need to be ALL one or ALL the other. The debate continues. As we explore and discover, science will explain.

    I thoroughly enjoyed the article; it encouraged me to study and explore further into this subject and share it with my children.

    • JJ Giesey

      No, feathers and scales can’t exist in the same area, if feathers had molted off, all that will remain will be the naked skin, and scales don’t grow back in areas that had feathers. So if rex molted feathers off when it reached adult hood, all the areas that molted off the feathers will be devoid of scales. And feathers and scales can both exist.

      • Florida Limey

        Not disagreeing with you, but the RS article says:

        “Interestingly, the scales on the legs of modern birds may not be homologous with reptile scales but are secondarily derived from feathers, likely acquired in response to behaviour (e.g. perching, wading) [17–19]. The corollary, therefore, is that tyrannosaur scales may also be derived from primitive feathers such as those in Yutyrannus. However, morphological evidence alone is insufficient and only future developmental studies will shed light on this hypothesis.”

        I know that most humans don’t grow ear-hair either, but I sure have grown some in my dotage. Are we certain that primitive feathers could not become scales as the individual matured, especially during an evolutionary period where scales and feathers were being evolved and apparently interchanged?

        No contradicting you, am just curious.

        • JJ Giesey

          Ancestral traits, especially integument rarely fade away, whales still have hair, and whale hair barely has any use, and whale hair has been around a longer time than the amount of time inbetween yutyrannus and t.rex, and feathers couldn’t evolve into scales, simply because feathers evolved from scales, and feathers can be traced back to the first tyrannosaur, dilong, and while dilong did indeed have feathers, large tyrannosaurs like tarbosaurus and t.rex have very little evidence, and all rex skin impressions are either miniscule, or in a area we already had known would be scaly.

        • JJ Giesey

          And feathers are a just a highly derived form of scales. So it wouldn’t make much sense if it evolved back into scales. Knowing how evolution works that is.

  • temporary guest

    Gemma Tarlach, My hat’s off to you. … but, I can’t help myself … I gotta ask … maybe you can shed some light on this for me …. Since we here in the United States have detemined that DNA doesn’t really mean squat when it comes to identity, what if a T-Rex happened to identify with Big Bird? Or with Tweety Bird, for that matter. Who are you to say a T-Rex isn’t a bird?

    But, you did point the way to clearer thinking about “gender confusion” for me. I figured out that a maleoid is kind of like a male, but not exactly a male and a femaleoid is kind of like a female, but not exactly a female.

    I’ve always known that I’m a guy, but thanks for helping me to understand the latest evolution of homosapienoids. I find that my confusion has vanished!

    (For those with no sense of humor, I’m just kidding around .. please don’t hunt me down and sue me).

  • Call of Duty Waifu

    Shitty Fake news.

    You liberal fucks can’t let go your pop-culture delusion, can’t you? Read the Journal carefully, again. and Again if you had to make it through your thick skull. This article is garbage.


    • JJ Giesey

      Honestly, they deserve your backlash https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CxE68c9rYa0 this will help prove further that this article is garbage, I like how Trey even refers to it in the video.

    • Florida Limey

      LOL! Always some right wing nut job who watches Fox “News” and Infowars, and believes all real news is FAKE! Am surprised you even believe in evolution with that attitude. You could have just asked your great-grandfather what T-Rex looked like, as according to right wing “news” outlets they were around at the same time.

      The RS Publication you referenced does not contradict Ms. Tarlach’s article. I suggest YOU read it again! :)

  • Florida Limey

    Always has to be some right wing nut job spewing his vitriol into the ether. Didn’t think your type even believed in evolution, or science?

    • Christopher DiPiazza

      “Just Say No To Feathered Tyrannosaurs” is the headline. “Take it Off Take it All Off” is enlarged in bold, heading a part of the article. It’s misleading for clicks, appealing to the folks who are yearning for their nostalgia days. Nothing in the actual scientific paper is wrong. Tyrannosaurus had scales…we’ve always known that and these skin impressions were on the fossil record for like 20 years before finally being published. However, t is most likely it also had feathers, given the fact that it’s a coelurosaurian theropod. Same reason why we can infer that Smilodon was covered in fur, despite never finding a shred of preserved fur on the literal hundreds of speciemens on the fossil record, because it was a felid mammal. This article isn’t accurately bringing across the point of the actual science paper, however, which is simply clarifying and detailing those known scale patches (which at the largest are only tiny dots on the animal’s body. The equivalent of a pencil eraser diameter on a human’s body to put it into perspective.) Despite this, like the video posted below says, she’s acting like her favorite sports team just won. This isn’t the only “science news” article that did that, either, which is damaging.

      • Florida Limey

        Thanks for your thoughtful reply.

        It seems to me the article is not too far removed from the RS conclusion that “large-bodied tyrannosaurids were scaly and, if partly feathered, these were limited to the dorsum.”

        The headline “”Take it Off Take it All Off” may be a slight exaggeration, but I view it as a journalistic hook to attract viewers beyond the small population who frequently read scientific papers. I don’t know exactly what Discover magazine’s mission statement says, but I venture its mission is to disseminate cold scientific discussion in a format accessible and appealing to the general public.

        The current issue of Discover headlines “Our Melting Planet,” but few would take that to mean the planet is literally melting. Without reading it I would assume it contains a discussion of the melting ice caps rather than the planet becoming global Siberian Traps.

        Likewise with the article. Discover readers are aware of the comparatively recent findings that many dinosaurs had feathers rather than scales. The article itself does not claim Tyrannousaurs were completely featherless:

        “. . . .just because the team ruled out fully-feathered adult tyrannosaurids, it doesn’t mean their babies weren’t covered in downy feathers, which would have provided heat retention, crucial for small, young animals. We just don’t have the fossils yet to know for sure. And even the grown-ups may have been sporting some feathery stuff.”

        Both scaly and feathery dinosaurs have their proponents. Ms. Tarlach’s article as a whole did not mislead the reader into believing tyrannosaurs were completely featherless. I personally appreciated the headline while understanding I needed to read the article to find out what was actually being claimed. The article — and the ensuing discussion pro and con — piqued my interest to research further into this matter. Surely that fits right in to Discover Magazine’s purpose?

        May the debate continue!

  • Doug Dobney

    From the article:
    “Technically, Yutyrannus had a coat of primitive, filamentous feathers that would have appeared almost fur-like, rather than the advanced, much more structured feathers of modern birds.”
    From the study:
    “The [Yutyrannus] filamentous integumentary structures are too densely packed for it to be possible to determine whether they are elongate broad filamentous feathers (EBFFs) like those seen in the therizinosauroid Beipiaosaurus, slender monofilaments, or compound filamentous structures.”

  • JJ Giesey

    This article is very much confused.

  • 31007 – TANSTAAFL

    Thank you for an interesting article. I too have never found the “giant chicken” depiction of T-Rex to be very satisfactory.

    • JJ Giesey

      Although this is the most cancerous term ever made, but this is literally fake news https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CxE68c9rYa0

      • Eric Samuel Olson

        Which? The Article? or Trey the Explainer? Because you seem to be running Trey’s Feather-nazi rant to the ground continuously…

        • JJ Giesey

          The news site, and being correct it no way feather nazi.

          • Eric Samuel Olson

            Did You not see my friend’s rebuttal of Trey that I posted? Here we go again. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y89wkWYOXgI&t=2s

          • Eric Samuel Olson

            I tried not to Re-post. but you seem to not even notice.

          • JJ Giesey

            Sorry, I seem to have gotten a bit out of hand, tend to get angry, and I have seen that video, thank you, though I will say AK rex did treat trey with slightly less respect than he should have. AND THAT COMMENT SECTION DEAR GOD. Though feathered t.rex is still a go and not at all inaccurate. I read trey’s comment and he did his video was misinformed and got some errors.

          • Eric Samuel Olson

            I’ll accept that. Though I don’t agree that Feathered T.rex is still a go. I never saw any evidence for Yutyrannus tail scales when I googled it.

          • JJ Giesey

            We can all have our own opinions on this topic. Thankfully AK rex is fixing the comment section.

          • Eric Samuel Olson

            Sounds Good to me.

  • Sam Biswas

    T-rex are both covered by scale and feathers. It’s like saying humans are covered in thick hair only because he have it on the head. Please watch this video?


  • Xavier Montin

    While I do have much respect for the new information presented here. I cannot say this article was pleasant to read. You infused too much of your personal distaste for feathered dinosaurs into your writing, making it seem more like bragging about some “victory” for your preference rather than a report on a newly released study. Such a large amount of bias portrays you as hopelessly old-fashioned and closed minded. Featherless Dinosaurs have their place in pop-culture, but you clearly don’t care enough about science if you cannot move past your preset prejudices and embrace the current image of these creatures promoted by the scientists.

  • Daniel Malcolm

    I have to say, Gemma Tarlach, it strikes me as pretty ridiculous how you can write such a hyperbolic piece, then try to claim down here in the comments that you aren’t emotionally invested in this topic. If it really isn’t a personal issue for you, then why portray it as such? Just to grab people’s attention? That’s not how science is supposed to work.

  • http://thethinkingabout.blogspot.com Jordan Dickerson

    Dinosaurs and birds have no relation. They are two different species. Finding feathers on dinosaurs does not mean that birds develop the same. It was a convergent evolution. Enjoy the text:

    The hominids and the prototypes

    The ancestors of man

    In the tertiary period some races of anthropoids appeared in the lower Pliocene. These anthropoids, ancestors of man, and the ascendants of the apes that still exist in the world, had their evolution in convergent points, therefore, the serological kinship between the organism of man and the chimpanzee. There was not a “descent from the tree”, at the beginning of human evolution, because it was established, a definite lineage for all species. Fish, reptiles, mammals, had their fixed lineage of development and the man would not escape this general rule.

    The prototypes

    The cave anthropoids have walked, to the groups, from the surface of the globe, for centuries, suffering the middle influences and forming future races into their diversified types.
    The research about Neanderthal type recognizes a species of bestialized man, and other discoveries, about fossil man, are a certificate of biological experiments, until put in the primate the approximate characteristic of future man.

    • JJ Giesey

      t.rex evolution had nothing to do with bird evolution.

  • Richard Sutton

    This guy is really trying to tell us that Dinosaurs are once again tail dragging lizards because of scale impressions from parts of dinosaurs already know to be scaly. Wow. this is ridiculous

  • Chuck Chuck

    science doesn’t care about opinion, you know the existence of feathers alongside scales are common feature, you can witness it in the modern day dinosaur, the bird, have you ever seen an ostrich? cassowary? vulture? even fucking chicken have both of feathers and scales, for fuck sake people, this is 2017.

  • a person on the internet

    Honest to god you lot are fucking idiots. The skin samples in this study were TINY and came from areas of the Rex’s body that, shown on other feathered dinosaurs, did not have feathers. (The legs, tail and underbelly.)
    T.Rex DID indeed have PARTIAL feathers, aka on its neck, back and parts of the tail.
    It’s just a shame that the media exploded with these findings and overexaggerated greatly. The notes in the study clearly stated that despite the scaled skin samples, the Rex still likely had partial feathers on other parts of the body, and yet people are deciding to go with overly aggressive and dismissive headlines such as “just say no to feathered T.Rexes” which is, in all honesty, fake news, and ignoring the facts by just taking one part of the study and blowing it to MASSIVELY disproportionate levels. It is LYING to the public, and for what? Some outdated, unscientific childhood image of a giant scaley lizard? Grow up and listen to the facts.
    People, please, do your reasearch on paleontology before making assumptions and writing/believing entirely fake news articles. Paleontologists all agree that the Rex had majestic, badass plumage, albeit a few bald spots here and there.

  • Attack on Titanosaur

    Awesome Bro Alert

  • Bryn Watkins

    The amount of bias in this article makes it eye-rollingly unreliable. You establish (in an unprofessional way) that you have a personal preference for scalely T. Rexes in the title. Perhaps you could have convinced me of your point of view if you acted like an actual journalist, rather than a child having a tantrum.

    Perhaps my favourite part, however, is when you end the article by saying that the T. Rex probably did have feathers, contradicting your petulant outbursts:

    ““I would wager they still probably had some feathers, maybe a few on their faces, acting like eyelashes or short whiskers,” Persons says. “And it is conceivable that they had localized patches of feathers or even feather crests. But not extensive feather coverings.””

  • Xenosaurian

    I always found it incredible how this “feather”-trend even became a thing.

  • Jake Lee

    Some ones mad that their scaly T. rex isn’t accurate anymore. 😂🤣

  • Jake Lee

    Should be “Just say YES to feathered Tyrannosaurus”

  • Angelis Murdock

    This is so true in fact i believe the Rex should have some sort of snake like scales

  • Zalefolius Lizalfens

    i can sum up this article as a screaming jp fanboy who treats its dinosaur designs as works of art that must be praised and that any differences in another design of the same dinosaur is shown, the design must be burned in a volcano. 1. it is never specified that the Tyrannosaurus had its entire body covered in feathers so the chunk of fossilized tyrannosaurus skin simply shows that it had scales on a specific part of its body and not that it doesn’t have feathers at all. 2. plate tectonics made the continents in different places and western North America (where Tyrannosaurus fossils have been found) was closer to the poles so the Tyrannosaurus had to adapt to get some sort of insulation to escape cold winters. 3. Tyrannosaurus rex is very similar to birds being an ancestor of the common chicken.

  • Max Morawski

    It is embarrassing that anyone published this.

  • Michael Reed

    Nice article. Has anyone compared the tyrannosaur’s fossilized skin with a crocodile/alligator hide?


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