Saturday 20 December 2014

More Barney than Jurassic Park as Irish team discovers that dinosaurs were fluffy

Published 25/07/2014 | 02:30

Dr. Maria McNamara, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, Universoity College Cork.
feathered dinosaurs

DINOSAURS may not have been the scaly-skinned reptiles we're used to seeing in books and films.

A groundbreaking Irish discovery suggests that all of the prehistoric creatures may have had a fine covering of feathers.

It was confirmed almost 30-years-ago that meat-eating dinosaurs had feather-like growths on their limbs.

That led to the theory, now widely accepted, that modern birds eventually evolved from hunting dinosaurs like the velociraptor.

However, University College Cork (UCC) paleontologist Dr Maria McNamara is a key part of a team which has now shown that all dinosaurs, especially small plant eaters, had feathers.

Furthermore, dinosaurs had feathers millions of years before their eventual extinction.

Dr McNamara was asked to conduct a careful examination of a new dinosaur discovered by Belgian expert, Dr Pascal Godefroit, in the Kulinda fossil field of eastern Siberia.

The small dinosaur, named Kulindadromeus Zabaikalicus, was clearly a plant eater. It also had scales on its tail and shins.

But Dr McNamara was able to confirm from an exhaustive study of the fossil that it had complex, compound feathers on its limbs.

The discovery – which has been hailed as one of the biggest in paleontology over recent years – will be published in the journal, 'Science', today.

"These feathers are really very well preserved," Dr McNamara told the Irish Independent.

"We can see each filament and how they are joined together at the base, making a compound structure of six or seven filaments, each up to 15mm long."

Dr McNamara worked with experts in the field of feather and soft tissue preservation in fossils in France and the UK.

Her discovery suggests that feather-like structures were likely widespread in dinosaurs, possibly even in the earliest members of the group.

Irish Independent

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