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A Jurassic ornithischian dinosaur from Siberia with both feathers and scales

Science  25 Jul 2014:
Vol. 345, Issue 6195, pp. 451-455
DOI: 10.1126/science.1253351

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Feathers, not just for the birds?

Theropod dinosaurs, thought to be the direct ancestors of birds, sported birdlike feathers. But were they the only feathery dino group? Godefroit et al. describe an early neornithischian dinosaur with both early feathers and scales. This seemingly feathery nontheropod dinosaur shows that feathers were not unique to the ancestors of birds and may even have been quite widespread.

Science, this issue p. 451

Abstract

Middle Jurassic to Early Cretaceous deposits from northeastern China have yielded varied theropod dinosaurs bearing feathers. Filamentous integumentary structures have also been described in ornithischian dinosaurs, but whether these filaments can be regarded as part of the evolutionary lineage toward feathers remains controversial. Here we describe a new basal neornithischian dinosaur from the Jurassic of Siberia with small scales around the distal hindlimb, larger imbricated scales around the tail, monofilaments around the head and the thorax, and more complex featherlike structures around the humerus, the femur, and the tibia. The discovery of these branched integumentary structures outside theropods suggests that featherlike structures coexisted with scales and were potentially widespread among the entire dinosaur clade; feathers may thus have been present in the earliest dinosaurs.

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