A new species of feathered dinosaur discovered in southern Germany is further changing the perception of how predatory dinosaurs looked. The fossil of Sciurumimus albersdoerferi, which lived about 150 million years ago, provides the first evidence of feathered theropod dinosaurs that are not closely related to birds. The fossil is described in a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences today.
"This is a surprising find from the cradle of feathered dinosaur work, the very formation where the first feathered dinosaur Archaeopteryx was collected over 150 years ago," said Mark Norell, chair of the Division of Palaeontology at the American Museum of Natural History and an author on the new paper along with researchers from Bayerische Staatssammlung fr Palontologie und Geologie and the Ludwig Maximilians University.
Theropods are bipedal, mostly carnivorous dinosaurs. In recent years, scientists have discovered that many extinct theropods had feathers. But this feathering has only been found in theropods that are classified as coelurosaurs, a diverse group including animals like T. rex and birds. Sciurumimusidentified as a megalosaur, not a coelurosaur is the first exception to this rule. The new species also sits deep within the evolutionary tree of theropods, much more so than coelurosaurs, meaning that the species that stem from Sciurumimus are likely to have similar characteristics.
"All of the feathered predatory dinosaurs known so far represent close relatives of birds," said palaeontologist Oliver Rauhut, of the Bayerische Staatssammlung fr Palontologie und Geologie. "Sciurumimus is much more basal within the dinosaur family tree and thus indicates that all predatory dinosaurs had feathers."
The fossil, which is of a baby Sciurumimus, was found in the limestones of northern Bavaria and preserves remains of a filamentous plumage, indicating that
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American Museum of Natural History