Monday, July 9, 2012

Missed the weekly roundup, have a dinosaur!

I failed at getting my weekly science roundup posted because of a family visit, but have an awesome science story anyway.


A Fluffy-Tailed Dinosaur!

Totally what this dinosaur looked like. Totally.

So, you know how dinosaurs have feathers? Well, here's an ancient one with loads of them. ON ITS TAIL. 

Check out the amazing (actual) picture here: BEAUTIFUL.

It's been named Sciurumimus albersdoerferi. Yes, it's a mouthful, but personally, I always find it extremely satisfying once I get the pronunciation of a new species down. And this species is actually named after squirrels, which is just awesome. (Sciuridae is the scientific family name for squirrels.)

Anyhow, the coolest thing about this discovery is that this dinosaur isn't a member of the "bird-like dinosaur" group that paleontologists have long accepted to have feathers. This dinosaur is a much more distant cousin to that group. Which means (dun dun DUN): Feathers are more ancestral than previously thought.

Now, there are quotes going around suggesting this new discovery proves "all dinosaurs had feathers" or some such nonsense. No. That's not what this shows. This does show that a much larger group of dinosaurs had feathers way back in the day than we used to think. Most likely. Unless, you know, convergent evolution. But in any case, this new dino is a theropod, which is where the bird lineage originated. It would not surprise me at all to learn that feathers were a trait of all theropods. But all dinosaurs? I think that's pushing it. Come back and suggest that again to me when we dig up a feathered ankylosaur fossil.

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