BBC Earth (Asia) - - Update -

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

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