Forget a reptilian appearance. The discovery of a new dinosaur species in Siberia suggests most probably had feathers. The journal Science reports feathers likely predated the split between meat-eating and plant-eating dinosaurs.
Researchers from the Institute of Natural Resources, Ecology and Cryology found some fossils in the Kulinda Valley near Chita in 2010 but they were fragmentary. Then in 2011 and 2012, paleontologist Sofia Sinitsa found more specimens with what looked like protofeathers.
“For the first time we found more complex, compound structures, together with simpler hairlike structures” in a plant-eating dinosaur, Kulindadromeus zabaikalicus, which lived about 175 million years ago, said Pascal Godefroit, a paleontologist at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences in Brussels, “that really resemble the protofeathers in advanced” meat eaters.
"Probably that means the common ancestor of all dinosaurs had feathers," Godefroit said.
"This does mean that we can now be very confident that feathers weren't just an invention of birds and their closest relatives, but evolved much deeper in dinosaur history," said paleontologist Stephen Brusatte of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. "I think that the common ancestor of dinosaurs probably had feathers, and that all dinosaurs had some type of feather, just like all mammals have some type of hair."
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Paleontologist Jakob Vinther of the University of Bristol in England told National Geographic the find outside China is "really fantastic."
"The material and specimens are nothing short of fantastic; their age and sheer number are rarely to be expected," said Vinther, who was not part of the discovery team.
Godefroit said no one knows what the feathers were for but it was clear "these animals couldn't fly."
The new species lived near the Kulinda River.