Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Squirrel-tailed Dinosaur

According to National Geographic, a beautifully preserved fossil of a 150-million-year-old dinosaur hatchling lends weight to the argument that hairlike feathers were the norm, not the exception, among all kinds of dinosaurs. 

This dinosaur is older and comes from a completely different branch of the dinosaur tree from other known feathered species.
Photograph by H. Tischlinger, Jura Museum Eichstätt
"Squirrel-Tail Dinosaur Fossil Upends Feather Theory" on National Geographic News


Mark Vander Vinne said...

While I believe the information gleaned from science is wonderful, fascinating and exhilarating, I also wonder if it is taking away our childhood thrills of thinking of Dinosaurs as big scary beasts that once roamed the earth. For myself, as a child the images of dangerous dinosaurs sparked my imagination with adventure and fear and started me down a road that I am still seeking and enjoying. Would you, James, or Iain McCaig or William Stout be so fascinated by Dinosaurs if they were all furry and feathery? I wonder if these artists who inspire many of us would be doing what they are now if they grew up with the science of Dinosaurs as we now are discovering them to truly be? All knowledge is wonderful (and I'm certainly not telling science to stop seeking and finding out --for I love that too), but sometimes the imagination and something unexplained seems better.

James Gurney said...

Mark, you raise an interesting point. The weight of our childhood memories is pretty powerful, and it probably makes us less willing to adopt these new views of science. But fuzzy does not always equal cuddly and sweet. Think grizzly or lion. Also, I can imagine some dinosaurs with a stand-up "mane" and fairly short or wiry hair on the rest of the body.

Reaven said...

@Mark: It sounds a bit more like you might worried about your childhood nostalgia perception of them. I'm betting that children will take wonder from dinosaurs no matter the details. Probably even more so if someone creates a new Jurrasic Park equivalent movie with the new details incorporated.

Warren B. said...

"Because Sciurumimus is from a completely different branch of the dinosaur family tree from the coelurosaurs, the new fossil suggests feathered dinosaurs were the norm, not the exception, Rauhut said."

Not that different. Not compared to, say, Tianyulong or Psittacosaurus. And what about all those scaly, scaly ceratopsians, ankylosaurs, hadrosaurs, abelisaurs, etc.?
Fantastic discovery to be sure, but I think something's getting lost in the NatGeo translation.

Mark: I get your point, but I've seen my share of people *angry* at 'silly fluffy' dinosaurs, and they tend to be grown, grumpy guys who lost interest age 10.

T. Arispe said...

I had a difficult time transitioning from the conception of dinosaurs as scaly to "fluffy", and went through a phase where I at least deemed it acceptable for dromaeosaurs to be scaly with a few feathers here and there for decoration. My perceptions were most definitely colored by a childhood full of dinosaurs portrayed as exotherms--although at that tender age I didn't realize how rapidly views were changing and just how outdated was some of the material I read.

But now I think the idea of "furry" dinosaurs and pterosaurs is awesome, and I love visually experimenting with outlandish types of feather/quill distribution such as giving Troodon horned-owl-like ear tufts, sketching manes onto allosaurs, and adding bushy feathers and tufted ears to a hypsilophodont to make it resemble a squirrel. Ridiculous? Probably. But learning that dinosaurs had feathers hasn't stifled my love for them--instead it's given me new imagination avenues to consider. I think fluffy theropods are adorable, in that "powerful predator" sort of way.

As Mr. Gurney said, it is difficult to tear away from cherished childhood views of things, but I imagine many people in the late 19th century felt the same way when they began to learn that dinosaurs were not universally-quadrupedal, crocodilian beasts who hung out in parks in London.

Anonymous said...

I urge the examination of the evidence from alternate views as well, and being open to the idea that millions of years isn't what the evidence really supports. There are places out there to examine both sides.

Denis Loubet said...

I particularly like the little bow tie.

jonathanpaulmayer said...

You're all jumping the gun. The entire scientific community is not convinced that these "proto-feathers" are feathers at all—or whether birds are even descended from theropods. Feduccia, Lingham-Soliar and Hinchliffe have suggested that what many jump to interpret as "feathers" is really an artifact of decaying skin. It is presumptuous to rewrite natural history in order to more conveniently fit a popular theory. There's simply no conclusive evidence for it.

K_tigress said...

Regardless of what the latest theories out there say, discovering new creatures and drawing them even making up your own are cool. Cool to the max! :D

Markus said...

As usual many news were not very correct when dealing with this new discovery. Many journalists wrote that this new fossil shows that dinosaurs in general had proto-feathers. But of course this is all-wrong, as this is a theropod, and there is no evidence at all that ornithishians had similar structures at all (well, how knows, perhaps they had, but we still don´t know. Of course it is now known animals like Psittacosaurus had bristle-like structures, but that´s quite special, furthermore there are skin impressions and fossilized skin from some ornithishians which had clearly scales). It is very probable that many dinosaurs had really feathers or more fuzzy proto-feathers.
Actually it would be quite strange if they had no heat insulation, as small and quite fragile animals like smaller theropods would very quickly loose heat without it.
And for all how are not familiar with Feduccia, Lingham-Soliar and Hinchliffe, they are only a very small minority with quite bizarre imaginations, which are based on obsolete ideas about bird evolution, which date back to a time when there were still only quite few fossils of early birds and bird-liek dinosaurs known.

Anonymous said...

Well, for giant lizards we still have dragons! :)