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Feathered dinosaurs

Sinosauropteryx, the first dinosaur to be discovered (in 1996) whose fossil remains showed evidence of feathers Palaeontologists now know from the fossil evidence that some dinosaurs had not the scaly skins of today’s reptiles, but coats of feathers—much more like their living descendants, the birds. This is especially common among the maniraptor group of theropods from which birds are most likely descended. The original purpose of having feathers was for insulation—to keep warmth in. This makes it likely that feathered dinosaurs were warm-blooded, like birds, but unlike other reptiles. The feathers would have also been used in mating displays by males, particularly if they were brightly coloured. Long feathers on their limbs gave the very lightest dinosaurs the ability to glide or later fly. 

Archaeopteryx: the fossil, showing feather impressions, and the creature itself

Feather impressions

Fossils of the Jurassic bird, Archaeopteryx, known from its skeletal simliarities to be related to some theropods such as Deinonychus, show well-preserved feathers. The first dinosaur fossils that had feather impressions were discovered preserved in fine-grained volcanic ash in Liaoning province, China, in the 1990s.

Quill knobs

Scientists have discovered a protein, called beta-keratin, in the fossil feathers of a dinosaur, Shuvuuia. This protein is also present in the feathers of modern birds.


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