Siberian fossils of dinosaurs dating roughly 160 million years ago suggest that almost all dinosaurs were covered with feathers. Previously, scientists believed that only theropod group of dinosaurs, the ancestors of our modern birds, had feathers and scales. Since 1990s, researchers have discovered more than five species of feathered dinosaurs in China. But they were all in the theropod group.
Fossils of Dinosaurs add a new dimension to the study of feather evolution
The newly identified dinosaur fossils are far removed from the avian lineage, suggesting that feathers were more widespread among dinosaurs. Findings of the latest study were published in the journal Science. Scientists have named the new dinosaur species Kulindadromeus zabaikalicus, which means “Kulinda river running dinosaur.” Fossils were recovered from the Zabaikalsky Krai is the region in Siberia.
K. zabaikalicus was about 1.5 meter long, with long hind legs, short snout, short arms and five fingers. This two-legged runner belonged to the “ornithischian” which is ancestrally distinct from the previous theropod discoveries. The plant-eating ornithischians accounted for more than half of all dinosaurs.
Pascal Godefroit of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Science in Brussels and lead author of the study, said it indicates that the common ancestor of all species of dinosaurs had feathers. Feathers aren’t just found in birds; they were also characteristics of all dinosaurs. Jakob Vinther, paleontologist at the University of Bristol, who was not part of the discovery team, said that Kulindadromeus adds a new dimension to the study of feather evolution.
Dinosaurs initially used feathers for insulation and signalling
Scientists said the discovery confirms that dinosaurs were warm-blooded and feathered in the beginning. Feathers were initially used for signalling and insulation. But they slowly became adapted for flight. During the Jurassic era, Kulindadromeus lived in the region where Kulinda river flows in Siberia flows today. Scientists said the scale on the newly discovered species resembles the scaly skin found on some birds. It suggests that there is a deep genetic linking between dinosaurs and birds.