Birds of a feather? Now include "ostrich" dinosaurs

Fri Oct 26, 2012 12:19pm EDT

An artist conception of the feathered ornithomimid dinosaur. REUTERS/Julius Csotonyi/University of Calgary

An artist conception of the feathered ornithomimid dinosaur.

Credit: Reuters/Julius Csotonyi/University of Calgary

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(Reuters) - The ostrich-like dinosaurs that roamed the Earth millions of years ago were adorned with feathers, used to attract a mate or protect offspring rather than for flight, according to the findings of Canadian scientists released on Thursday.

Researchers from the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology, and the University of Calgary made the discovery in the 75-million-year-old rocks in the badlands of southern Alberta.

The ostrich-like dinosaurs, known as ornithomimids, were thought to be hairless, fleet-footed birds and were depicted as such in the Hollywood movie Jurassic Park.

But the researchers found evidence of feathers with a juvenile and two adult skeletons of ornithomimus, a species within the ornithomimid group.

"The discovery, the first to establish the existence of feathers in ornithomimids, suggests that all ostrich-like dinosaurs had feathers," according to a statement from the Alberta museum.

It said the specimens also revealed that the dinosaurs boasted a base of down-like feathers throughout their lifetime while older ones developed feathers on their arms, approximating wings.

But the dinosaurs would have been too large to fly, so the plumage might have been employed to attract a mate or in the protection of eggs during hatching.

The findings by the paleontologists Francois Therrien, curator at the Royal Tyrrell Museum, and Darla Zelenitsky, assistant professor at the University of Calgary, will be published on Friday in Science, a leading journal.

The fossils were discovered in sandstone and were the first feathered dinosaur specimens found in North America, according to the museum statement. Previously feathered dinosaur skeletons have been recovered almost exclusively from fine-grained rocks in China and Germany.

(Reporting By Russ Blinch; editing by Todd Eastham)

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Comments (1)
morbas wrote:
The Geologic Maastrichtian Stage represented a final decline of Dinosaur species; no fossils are found in the late Maastrichtian stage strata. The Yucatan meteorite event 65Ma-ago controversial claim that the Dinosaur was extinguished by that event is not found in impact strata. The feather has ultra violate (UV) reflection properties, present avian (birds) depend of UV reflection for mating. Only Avian Dinosaurs survived through the late Masstrichtian Stage. Logically, larger and non feathered beasts could not have survived loss of ozone, our our UV shield as well. This represents possible causality for a Maastrichtian stage decline in Dinosaur species. Antarctic and ‘Arctic Dinosaur’ dinosaur evidence, indicate global loss of temperate regions could not have been causal, and the Yucatan event did not terminate the Dinosaur, impacting only the cretaceous sea life.

Oct 27, 2012 9:52am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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