Fossils of a large feathered dinosaur have been discovered in Liaoning province of northeastern China.
The three 125-million-year-old remains, which are fairly well-preserved, included one adult and two juveniles. The adult was at least 30 feet long and would have weighed more than 3,000 pounds, reports the New York Times.
The new species is called Yutyrannus huali, which means beautiful feathered tyrant.
Scientists told MSNBC the dino-feathers were soft and thick, with hair-like filaments; they resembled the fuzzy down of an emu rather than the stiff plumes of a seagull.
Y.huali lived 60 million years earlier than the famous Tyrannosaurus rex and was a bit smaller, but the two predators were related -- both were theropods. This raises the possibility that the T. rex could have sported feathers too, in addition to its scales.
It was previously thought that only smaller dinosaurs had feathers, like the Sinosauropteryx, fossils of which were also found in Liaoning. Now scientists can confirm that some larger theropods carried on the birdlike tradition.
These feathers probably served mainly as insulation, according to researchers. But they may have also been useful for camouflage, or even attracting a mate.
The more scientists learn, reports AP, the more possible it seems that the fearsome Tyrannosaurus rex could have been a feathered carnivore. People need to start changing their image of T. rex, said Luis Chiappe, director of the Dinosaur Institute at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.