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Largest feathered dinosaur find has scientists in a flap

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Largest feathered dinosaur find has scientists in a flap.

Largest feathered dinosaur find has scientists in a flap.

Largest feathered dinosaur find has scientists in a flap.

A "shaggy" close cousin of Tyrannosaurus rex discovered in China is the biggest feathered dinosaur known, scientists have revealed.

Yutyrannus huali, illustrated, measured almost 10 metres and weighed more than a tonne. Like T-rex, it was a formidable predator, but -- unlike its famous relative -- was covered in downy feathers.

Scientists believe the feathers had no connection with flight and would have been used to keep the animal warm.

Despite being dwarfed by T-rex, Yutyrannus was 40 times heavier than the largest feathered dinosaur known to date, Beipiaosaurus.

Three almost complete fossil skeletons of Yutyrannus, one adult and two juveniles, were found in Liaoning Province, north-east China.

Its name is a combination of Latin and Mandarin meaning "beautiful feathered tyrant".

Patches of preserved skin from T-rex suggest that it was covered in scales rather than feathers.

But Yutyrannus, which like T-rex walked on two legs, showed clear evidence of primitive plumage.

"The feathers of Yutyrannus were simple filaments," said Professor Xu Xing, from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, whose team described the find in the journal 'Nature'.

"They were more like the fuzzy down of a modern baby chick than the stiff plumes of an adult bird."

T-rex lived in the warm Late Cretaceous period, which ended when the dinosaurs went extinct 65 million years ago.

Yutyrannus, on the other hand, dates back to the cooler Early Cretaceous. Its feathers probably provided insulation, despite the animal's large size, scientists believe.

Irish Independent