SOME DINOSAURS WERE FLUFFY
Though films such as Jurassic Park show dinosaurs with tough, leathery, rhino-like skin, it has since been proved that many of them were feathered. Now, though, it seems that some dinosaurs were fluffy.
A team at the University of Bristol have studied the fossilised remains of bird-sized dinosaur Anchiornis, part of the same paravian group as Velociraptor that lived 160 million years ago. The specimen has particularly well-preserved feather details, which is something that’s usually lost during fossilisation.
Covering its body, Anchiornis had unusual ‘contour feathers’ – plumage not used in flight – that were soft and V-shaped, and around one to two centimetres in length. Longer flight feathers emerged in layers from all four of the animal’s limbs. Anchiornis seems to have needed extra flight feathers because their feathers were not ‘zipped together’ like a bird’s feathers, so generated less lift.
The Bristol team worked closely with scientific illustrator Rebecca Gelernter, who produced this image of Anchiornis. The illustration shows how the dinosaur probably clung onto branches with its forelimbs, rather than perching like a bird.
“Fossil feathers in particular are very hard to interpret, even for scientists, because they preserve as flat stains derived from the feather pigments,” said researcher Evan Saitta. “We could only describe the new feathers due to a fluke where some contour feathers separated from the main plumage. This drawing is likely the most accurate depiction of a dinosaur ever.”
This drawing is likely to be the most accurate depiction of a dinosaur ever, according to the University of Bristol team