Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Giant Theropod with Feathers

Big Dinosaur news today!  In a new paper published today in Nature by Xing Xu of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing and his colleages announced the discovery of a giant theropod dinosaur from the Chinese Yixian Formation they have named Yutyrannus huali.  They discovered three separate individuals, each roughly 9 meters long (about 30 feet).  The big deal: this thing had feathers.

Feathered dinosaurs aren't rare.  But this is the largest theropod to ever be discovered with them, and this is an important point.  It has long been debated whether giant theropods had feathers or not, so this discovery is significant.  If Yutyrannus had feathers, then who's to say that other ones didn't as well?  Can you imagine a fuzzy T. rex?  Of course, this doesn't necessarily mean that other large theropods definitely had feathers.  (Party poop.)  The scientists publishing the paper believe that the area in which this animal lived (Early Cretaceous Northeastern China) may have been abnormally cold for the cretaceous, and the feathers may have provided insulation.  (A 'woolly tyrannosaur')  So, this doesn't mean that all other large theropods had them, but it does mean that they could have.  And until it is proven otherwise, I'm going to be drawing them that way from now on.  (Well, Tyrannosaurs at least.)

Speaking of drawing, I should probably give a shot at drawing this guy.

If you want to read the paper, here's the link: Nature.  It is not free, though, so you might not get to read more than the abstract unless you have a subscription to Nature or you are at a University that does.

I would also direct you to Dave Hone's Archosaur Musings for a more in depth take on this great find.

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