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Immaculately Preserved Fossil Suggests Way More Dinosaurs May Have Been Feathered Than We Thought

hold on to your butts

We knew that some dinosaurs had feathers, but we didn’t know that many of them did. Hit the jump to find out how this intricate fossil is shedding doubt upon previously accepted theories about the our extinct friends.

The discovery of an extremely well-preserved theropod fossil has cast doubt upon the long held assumption that most dinosaurs had scales, rather than feathers. Upon its death, this Sciurumimus albersdoerferi — Latin for “squirrel-mimic” — left an imprint in such fine grained sediments that it basically formed a photograph of the creature, revealing the evidence that plumes had covered its body. The dinosaur lived 150 million years ago throughout what is now known as Germany.

Feathered dinosaurs aren’t exactly a new discovery — other feathered theropods, a taxonomic term meaning two-legged dinosaurs and their bird descendants, have been found previously. However, according to Wired, the implications of this discovery could shed light upon the entirety of theropods: “Compared to the coelurosaurs, S. albersdoerferi was ‘significantly more basal in the evolutionary tree of theropods,’ or a trunk rather than a branch,” wrote Oliver Rauhut and colleagues, paleontologists at Germany’s Ludwig Maximilian University. In other words, if this dinosaur had feathers, it’s very likely that its descendants did, too.

Other paleontologists have found bristle-like structures on beaked, four-legged dinosaurs. According to Rauhut, this discovery, along with the evidence of S. albersdoerferi‘s feathers, suggests that “a filamentous body covering obviously represents the plesiomorphic state for dinosaurs in general,” that is, the “ancestrally typical” state for these ancient creatures.

The best part of these findings? It’s still early enough to plan on gluing feathers to your dinosaur Halloween costume.

(via Wired.)

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