Spectacularly Preserved Fossil Suggests Most Dinosaurs Were Feathered

A newfound squirrel-tailed specimen is the most primitive meat-eating dinosaur with feathers, according to a new study. The late-Jurassic discovery, study authors say, challenges the image of dinosaurs as “overgrown lizards.”

Unearthed recently from a Bavarian limestone quarry, the “exquisitely preserved” 150-million-year-old fossil has been dubbed Sciurumimus albersdoerferi—”Scirius” being the scientific name for tree squirrels.

Sciurumimus was likely a young megalosaur, a group of large, two-legged meat-eating dinosaurs. The hatchling had a large skull, short hind limbs, and long, hairlike plumage on its midsection, back, and tail.

Previously, paleontologists have found feathers only on coelurosaurs—birdlike dinosaurs that evolved later than so-called megalosaurs such as Sciurumimus.

Because Sciurumimus is not closely related to coelurosaurs, the new fossil suggests feathered dinosaurs were the norm, not the exception. Learn more here or here.

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