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Researchers Unearth Largest Feathered Dinosaur

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the really-big-bird dept.

Science 58

sciencehabit writes "Paleontologists have unearthed fossils of the largest feathered creature yet known, a 1.4-metric ton dinosaur that was an early cousin of Tyrannosaurus rex. The long, filament-like feathers preserved with three relatively complete skeletons of the newly described species provide direct evidence of extensively feathered gigantic dinosaurs. The discovery is controversial—and in some scientific circles, largely unexpected."

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Darn the facts... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39579333)

feathered dinosaurs still look weird to me.

Re:Darn the facts... (5, Interesting)

Beardo the Bearded (321478) | more than 2 years ago | (#39579433)

Think about this for a moment:

Nobody has ever seen a real dinosaur. We're separated in time from them by millions of years. Sure, we can make some great guesses but the fact is that we aren't going to get it perfectly right.

Look at what happens if you haven't seen the critter... [google.ca]

Re:Darn the facts... (1)

serviscope_minor (664417) | more than 2 years ago | (#39579507)

Look at what happens if you haven't seen the critter...

Yes, because techniques haven't improved at all since 1731.

Re:Darn the facts... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39580055)

Look at what happens if you haven't seen the critter...

Yes, because techniques haven't improved at all since 1731.

Well, the look of dinosaurs have been altered more than one time since then too. I expect them to change a few times more.

Re:Darn the facts... (1)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 2 years ago | (#39582479)

Sure you have: birds. Biologists routinely treat birds as dinosaurs these days. Because saying "birds are dinosaurs" isn't just being clever with words, it's a statement with useful predictive power. Even the Wikipedia article on dinosaurs has given up and now talks about dinosaurs in the present tense. [wikipedia.org]

Re:Darn the facts... (1)

jc42 (318812) | more than 2 years ago | (#39599769)

Nobody has ever seen a real dinosaur.

Sure, we have. One of the best explanations I've seen was in this xkcd discussion [xkcd.com] . Scan down to the two images separated by the text "but this, is a dinosaur:. It's a great illustration of the current understanding of the relation between birds, dinosaurs, and their relatives. The text above the images explains it.

Of course, 10 years from now we may have a slightly modified understanding. But this illustrates why we are all quite familiar with modern dinosaurs.

Actually, I have one sitting on my shoulder at the moment. She's a blue-crowned (or sharp-tailed, if you prefer) conure. I have a nice photo of her head that I use as an avatar on some forums, but /. doesn't seem to implement those. She's almost as cute as the feathered dinosaur in the above link. But she has a rather serious beak that we have to keep warning visitors about. She's small and cute, but she could do a lot of damage to your hand if you try to pick her up and she doesn't trust you.

Unexpected? (4, Interesting)

medcalf (68293) | more than 2 years ago | (#39579337)

My (certainly amateur) reading of the literature indicates that it's likely that all therapods were feathered, albeit mostly with thin insulating feathers that don't fossilize well. How is this unexpected?

Re:Unexpected? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39579571)

My (certainly amateur) reading of the literature indicates that it's likely that all therapods were feathered, albeit mostly with thin insulating feathers that don't fossilize well. How is this unexpected?

its a large debate amongst paleontologist's whether or not dinosaurs were feathered, with some choosing to believe they were and others refuting the evidence as inconclusive, such as the apparent feathers simply being a tree branch or other anomaly, not feathers.

personally i prefer the past when dinosaurs weren't feathered its hard to think of raptor as kool and scary anymore when they look like retarded balding chickens

Re:Unexpected? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39579871)

personally i prefer the past when dinosaurs weren't feathered its hard to think of raptor as kool and scary anymore when they look like retarded balding chickens

Must be tough where you live! None of the retarded balding chickens in our area can strip you of your flesh in a few minutes!!!

Re:Unexpected? (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 2 years ago | (#39580029)

personally i prefer the past when dinosaurs weren't feathered its hard to think of raptor as kool and scary anymore when they look like retarded balding chickens

So you don't think something with feathers could scary? Like, say, an eagle? Well fucking grizzly bears [youtube.com] disagree with you -- maybe you should reconsider!

Crocodile Hunter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39582643)

personally i prefer the past when dinosaurs weren't feathered its hard to think of raptor as kool and scary anymore when they look like retarded balding chickens

So you don't think something with feathers could scary? Like, say, an eagle? Well fucking grizzly bears [youtube.com] disagree with you -- maybe you should reconsider!

Steve Irwin would also agree, I remember when he was on Larry King and he was terrified of the parrot on his arm and was holding it as far away as possible.

Re:Unexpected? (1, Redundant)

N0Man74 (1620447) | more than 2 years ago | (#39580375)

its a large debate amongst paleontologist's whether or not dinosaurs were feathered, with some choosing to believe they were and others refuting the evidence as inconclusive, such as the apparent feathers simply being a tree branch or other anomaly, not feathers.

personally i prefer the past when dinosaurs weren't feathered its hard to think of raptor as kool and scary anymore when they look like retarded balding chickens

I think you are confusing science with something else.

Re:Unexpected? (1)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 2 years ago | (#39582495)

Know what's worse? Most ancient dinosaurs probably didn't go "RAWWWWRRRR." In fact, they probably didn't have voices at all [wikipedia.org] - vocal chords in the larynx are a mammalian invention, and birds make sounds with the syrinx, which came along later.

My daughter is 4yo and dinosaur-mad. Her very favourite day out is the Natural History Museum (with the fucking huge diplodocus in the entry hall). How do you break it to a small child that dinosaurs didn't go "RAWWWWRRRR"? Santa is nothing to this.

Re:Unexpected? (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 2 years ago | (#39588943)

How do you break it to a small child that dinosaurs didn't go "RAWWWWRRRR"?

Wait until they're a slightly larger child and won't be so crushed?

Seriously, if your 4 year old wants to believe they go "RAWWWWRRRR", why disappoint her just yet? She's got plenty of years to be stuck with cold hard facts. Just go "RAWWWWRRRR" back. :-P

Re:Unexpected? (1)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 2 years ago | (#39590561)

Oh, I do, I do!

Re:Unexpected? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39589511)

they could hiss. also, use the reverberator chambers in their skulls.

so they would sound kind of like bullfrogs and snakes.

Re:Unexpected? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39579853)

It's unexpected because the Young Earther Bible thumpers are going to have a hard time with it. How do you negate evolution as a theory if you start to discover crossover species?

Re:Unexpected? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39579893)

It's unexpected because the Young Earther Bible thumpers are going to have a hard time with it. How do you negate evolution as a theory if you start to discover crossover species?

They'll say all fossils were planted by the devil to fool the nonchristians into believing something blasphemous....Or osmething like that...GOD!!!!

Re:Unexpected? (1)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 2 years ago | (#39580027)

I think the going assumption up until now has been that large theropods of all types, tyrannosaurs and the like, may have had feathers as juveniles but lost them all or most of them in adulthood.

Re:Unexpected? (1)

rve (4436) | more than 2 years ago | (#39581753)

My (certainly amateur) reading of the literature indicates that it's likely that all therapods were feathered, albeit mostly with thin insulating feathers that don't fossilize well. How is this unexpected?

But fossil skin imprints of later therapods (t-rex) indicate that they had scales...

For some reason, apart from the archaeopteryx (which is a far older fossil), the feathered dinosaurs all seem to have lived in that one area in present day China. I'm certainly not an expert, but I'm not convinced any of them are entirely real. Many of these, apparently including this fossil, were not dug up and prepared by paleontologists, but by local artisans. The ones with feather imprints or looking like transitional species fetch a much higher price. How difficult would it be for a local artisan to add some feather or down imprints to a fossil to increase its value?

Re:Unexpected? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39582411)

Feather impressions would be scrutinized under microscopic detail. And a known forgery Archeoraptor, wasn't from a fake feather impressions, but two slabs from two different species(top and bottom half), presented as one, and it was suspect because it had no counter-slab of the reverse side.

Re:Unexpected? (1)

rve (4436) | more than 2 years ago | (#39582553)

Feather impressions would be scrutinized under microscopic detail. And a known forgery Archeoraptor, wasn't from a fake feather impressions, but two slabs from two different species(top and bottom half), presented as one, and it was suspect because it had no counter-slab of the reverse side.

I read that this particular specimen was bought in the market. They're not even sure exactly where it was found.
I'm sure the imprints are of real feathers, but were they 125 million year old dinosaur down, or contemporary chicken down?

Re:Unexpected? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39584283)

"For some reason, apart from the archaeopteryx (which is a far older fossil), the feathered dinosaurs all seem to have lived in that one area in present day China."

It's a preservational effect. There aren't many places in the world that have the right sort of preservation for feathers. Solnhofen in Germany, where the Archaeopteryx specimens are from, is one such place, but feather impressions in general are very rare (e.g., even in Solnhofen there are ~11 specimens in a couple of centuries of quarrying the limestones). The only other Jurassic or Cretaceous location I can think of is the Crato Formation in Brazil, which has convincing feathers [scielo.br] [PDF], but they are isolated specimens (not attached to a body) and so far there haven't been any decently-preserved dinosaur specimens found there, just the occasional bone (suggesting a lot of decay of the dinosaur before they got buried, so little chance of preservation of any feathers, if present). People have made the case that some of those isolated feathers were from dinosaurs, but until they're found directly associated, that's debatable. I think there are a couple of other places in the world where isolated feathers have been found in the Jurassic and Cretaceous, but so far the *connected* specimens (i.e. feathers *on* a body) are unique to a few locations in China. Maybe we'll get lucky someday, but these are long odds (feathers on a body) on top of long odds (preserving feathers at all).

In any case, there are plenty of specimens from China where there is no ambiguity about either where the specimen came from, that it is legitimate, or that the structures attached to the body are feathers (e.g., there are multiple specimens of Microraptor). If you mean the "archaeoraptor" specimen, yeah, it's bogus, but that's because it was cobbled together from pieces of more than one genuine specimen with genuine feather impressions, not because the feathers on there were completely faked. Some local artisan could try to add some feathers, but it would be found out pretty quickly, just like it was for "archaeoraptor" (the original paper was rejected from journals for publication). It's doubtful that you could add them on there in a way that was at all convincing.

Case in point: some of the feathered specimens from China have preserved melanosomes [wikipedia.org] , on both the feathered dinosaurs and the birds. Good luck trying to fake that in a way that stands up to microscopic scrutiny.

Re:Unexpected? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39590495)

First off, "scale-like" skin does not equal scales. Secondly, my chicken who has feathers growing from his scaled legs would like to talk to you about the two not necessarily being mutually exclusive.

Re:Unexpected? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39582321)

The discovery is controversial—and in some scientific circles, largely unexpected.

I would agree how one would ask themselves or print the above sentence? Scientists have been claiming that large feathered creatures existed during that time or they evolved from early dinosaurs. But it seems obvious these feathered dinosaurs, are far fewer, they should be finding more of them.

A lot comments on here sound like those Christian Extreme beliefs, dinosaurs did not exist, but people were as large as dinosaurs and lived to be 900 years old, this seems to be believable!!! this is a sarcastic comment.. I see what others are pointing out.

I keep an ear or eye out for new things related to dinosaurs but I do not fully believe what they say, but keep in mind what theories or "images" others have come up with. It is possible some have gone to the extreme of forging some of the fossils to get there guesses correct.

turns out it was just Big Bird (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39579427)

From sesame street

Wheres the pics? (3, Interesting)

ThePeices (635180) | more than 2 years ago | (#39579479)

It would be nice if the article actually included a few photos of the fossils that were found.

Some artists rendering is a poor substitute.

Re:Wheres the pics? (4, Informative)

Opyros (1153335) | more than 2 years ago | (#39580481)

Here [discovermagazine.com] is an article with one photo of the skull, at least. And this [discovermagazine.com] one shows the scientists reassembling the fossil like a jigsaw puzzle (and has an interesting writeup in general).

Re:Wheres the pics? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39584009)

It would be nice, but there are probably copyright/licensing issues. It isn't much help (because it requires a subscription), but here's a link to the scientific article in Nature [nature.com] , although, honestly, I've not seen such bad photography presented in Nature in a while. Somebody needs to learn about proper exposure and contrast in photography -- either the original authors or the journal. I had to pull the images off the site and tweak them a bit myself before I was convinced of what the authors were claiming, and higher resolution would be nice. Even so, the interpretations look reasonable, and these structures are quite similar to those described for other dinosaurs specimens in the area.

species spelling (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39579737)

Is it Y.huali or Y.hulai ? The article has both spellings.

Re:species spelling (1)

HybridST (894157) | more than 2 years ago | (#39580941)

This looks like a job for Googlefight! [googlefight.com]
Looks like it's the first one.

Re:species spelling (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 2 years ago | (#39581125)

Is it Y.huali or Y.hulai ? The article has both spellings.

I had to look at the article's date, to make sure they weren't joking about U.hauli, I.foani, E.maili, A.bicidi, etc.

Please, please, please (2)

NEDHead (1651195) | more than 2 years ago | (#39579841)

No reanimation until this feather thing is resolved

Re:Please, please, please (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39579889)

Perhaps they taste just like chicken...

Re:Please, please, please (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39582541)

Oh cmon! Death by Big Bird! Think of the XKCD comic.

Clothing? (4, Funny)

retroworks (652802) | more than 2 years ago | (#39579873)

Have we eliminated the possibility that dinosaurs wore clothing?

aaaaannnnd (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39579913)

...cue creationist media blowing the "controversial" aspect completely out of proportion in 3....2.....

Feathers and scales are the same genes (4, Informative)

jd (1658) | more than 2 years ago | (#39580175)

It is likely that in some dinosaurs that both were present. In other cases, it may be that feathers were present first, then scales replaced them when shed - like adult teeth replace milk teeth. Also, because it's the same gene, a change in environmental conditions may cause feathers to appear in dinosaurs in which they would not otherwise do so -- once the mutations necessary have arisen, of course. One case study is proof that the mutations existed at that time and is a strong indication that feathered dinos existed prior to that time, but we've insufficient evidence to say definitely if this was a feathered dino in the general case, only the specific case.

More Evidence... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39580247)

Posting as AC because I'm sure some of the whackjobs on here will be unhinged by this...

This is just more evidence that dinosaurs never really existed. Fossils are not so old as people think, they were placed when the Earth was created somewhere between 6,000 and 10,000 years ago. It's ridiculous to think that a 1.4 ton animal would have had feathers. Feathers exist for the purpose of flying. There are plenty of engineers here - how much force would it have taken for that animal to be able to fly, and is that amount of force even close to possible using muscle? I think not. If evolution is real, then feathers evolved for flying. How do you reconcile that feathers would have come about BEFORE the creature was even close to capable of flying?

TFA states that this creature is supposed to be 125 million years old. Do you have any idea how long ago that was? It's unfathomable. It's just ridiculous. Why do they think so? Because of radiocarbon dating or some similar technique? How do we have any idea how accurate that is, it's only been around for decades, not even centuries and not millennia.

Some of you will probably say that this is all faith, not science. But how can you claim that dating is science? Science is about the methods and being able to reproduce results. How can you reproduce these sort of results without a time machine?

Re:More Evidence... (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39580391)

Oh joy. The homeschooled trolls will be out in force again with their bible nonsense.

Re:More Evidence... (4, Informative)

sysrammer (446839) | more than 2 years ago | (#39580421)

Feathers evolved as insulation. After millions of years, they and the critters they adorned evolved them into use for flight (along with diminished size, air-pockets in bones, etc).

Re:More Evidence... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39581313)

Feathers evolved as pubic covering to prevent chaffing.

Re:More Evidence... (1, Troll)

Beelzebud (1361137) | more than 2 years ago | (#39580525)

No one is going to take time to give you a basic high school education on the internet. Posting as AC because you don't want people to know you are a whackjob is more like it.

Re:More Evidence... (4, Funny)

ChunderDownunder (709234) | more than 2 years ago | (#39581061)

If he'd posted under his own username, he'd be +5 Funny/Troll/Insightful by now :)

Re:More Evidence... (2)

Beelzebud (1361137) | more than 2 years ago | (#39581131)

That and he wouldn't be able to vote down comments like mine.

Re:More Evidence... (2)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 2 years ago | (#39581157)

No one is going to take time to give you a basic high school education on the internet. Posting as AC because you don't want people to know you are a whackjob is more like it.

Probably trolling. Creationists don't usually feel a need to hide their identity, because they think *they're* the ones with sane views.

Re:More Evidence... (3, Insightful)

pnewhook (788591) | more than 2 years ago | (#39580849)

Feathers exist for the purpose of flying. (snip) If evolution is real, then feathers evolved for flying.

Ostrich, emu, penguin...

How do you reconcile that feathers would have come about BEFORE the creature was even close to capable of flying?

Same reason some modern birds have feathers but cannot fly. Same reason whales and snakes have hip bones.

Re:More Evidence... (1)

cellocgw (617879) | more than 2 years ago | (#39587379)

Feathers exist for the purpose of flying. (snip) If evolution is real, then feathers evolved for flying.

Ostrich, emu, penguin...
Penguins most certainly do fly. They just do it underwater. That said, don't confuse present-day usage with the twisted paths evolution has followed to get here.

Re:More Evidence... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39581205)

Don't you people realize you are being trolled by the OP?

I have studied tonnnns of literature on both the Evolutionist and Creationist side, I have tons of very educated friends on both sides as well. NO Creationist I know of believes the retarded shit that the OP posted. Posts like this are done for the sole purpose of giving a totally incorrect impression of what creationists believe (probably because the Evolutionist that posted it has no clue regarding the data and, more importantly, the interpretation of the data that the Creationists have mused upon to come to their conclusions).

Disclaimer:
Though I have studied information on both sides, I adhere to the dogmatic interpretations of neither camp because BOTH sides require an immense amount of faith in the sense that their conjectures are based upon very one sided foundations. For example, read 'Origins' by DeGrasse and Goldsmith as well as 'The Genesis Flood' by whatever his name was- make it a point to underline every paragraph that bases its conclusion upon conjecture, inference, and assumptions, and you will find that in EITHER book you are going to need a whole lot of pens to finish. All of that being said, I feel pity for the OP for having nothing better to do with his time and mental abilities than to post some nonsense that they do not believe themselves. Immaturity knows no age.

Re:More Evidence... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39581381)

If evolution is real, then feathers evolved for flying.

Tell that to the emu and the kiwi, you insensitive clod.

Re:More Evidence... (1)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 2 years ago | (#39582503)

There is a polite refutation [rationalwiki.org] to a whole string of stupid creationist arguments on RationalWiki.

Re:More Evidence... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39583939)

"Feathers exist for the purpose of flying."

Tell that to ostriches and emus. And I wonder why peacocks have those crazy-long feathers. For flight?

Re:More Evidence... (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 2 years ago | (#39588077)

Posting as AC because I'm sure some of the whackjobs on here will be unhinged by this...

You mean "posting AC because my Reverend Jake trolls have me at horrible karma?" Ok, I'll bite, troll, only because assholes like you you give Christians a bad name and piss me off.

Earth was created somewhere between 6,000 and 10,000 years ago.

And there's the first insult. I don't know of a single Christian who believes that bullshit, which is NOT in your bible anywhere.

It's ridiculous to think that a 1.4 ton animal would have had feathers. Feathers exist for the purpose of flying.

Then why do ostriches and penguins have feathers?

How do you reconcile that feathers would have come about BEFORE the creature was even close to capable of flying?

As another commenter noted, feathers aren't for flying. Bats have no feathers and ostriches can't fly. Flying creatures (bats, some birds, some insects) can fly because their weight is low enough and the aerodynamics of their wings overcome that low weight.

TFA states that this creature is supposed to be 125 million years old. Do you have any idea how long ago that was?

Yes, about 1/32 of the age of the Earth and about 1/128th the age of the universe, unless I missed a decimal place in my math. Nowhere near as long as eternity!

Because of radiocarbon dating or some similar technique? How do we have any idea how accurate that is?

Do you have wikipedia? You can't tell the age of a fossil by carbon dating, as the carbon's long gone. Carbon dating is accurate to 58,000 to 62,000 years. There are other ways of determining the age of fossils, such as the rock strata it's buried in. See here. [wikipedia.org]

Some of you will probably say that this is all faith, not science.

Science and theology are not at odds. If one seems to contradict the other, it's because your understanding of one, the other, or both is faulty.

I believe John 8:44 pertains to you, troll. Now shoo. Grownups are talking science here, and religion is offtopic.

And mods... good job on that one. Much better than yesterday's moderations.

Yum! (1)

Sussurros (2457406) | more than 2 years ago | (#39582053)

Buffalo Wings won't you come out tonight?
Come out tonight?...

Big Bird? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39582279)

OMG they found Big Bird!

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