Orange-feathered Dinosaurs

Photo via flickr by Aaron Gustafson

Scientists from China and the UK have the latest evidence to prove that feathers evolved in dinosaurs before birds adapted them for flight.

Using electron microscopy technology to analyze membranes in fossilized dinosaurs discovered in October 2009 in northeast China, the scientists were able to determine what color the feathers were—reddish orange.

“This is the first direct evidence of a certain color in a known dinosaur feather,” Patrick Orr, co-author of the study from Bristol University told CNN.

However, this isn’t the first discovery of feathers on dinosaurs. In 2002, palaeontologists from China and the United States wrote in the journal Nature that evidence from a fossil  they found in Northeastern China of a carnivorous dinosaur called a dromesaur, showed perhaps the first evidence that dinosaurs may at some point in their lives may have been covered with true feathers like those we see on modern birds, suggesting dinosaurs may have looked more like odd-shaped, large birds than huge, scaly lizards. Scientists have continued to debate this discovery.

In a 2002 discussion with Sputnik Observatory, theoretical physicist John A. Wheeler (1911 – 2008), put the debate into perspective, suggesting humans should question what faculty do we have but not put to use, as the dinosaurs and their feathers.

It’s fantastic that evolution should have ended up with us. What other kind of creature could it have been? You’ve probably followed these fantastic recent discoveries in China about the dinosaur having feathers to keep them warm, but then they learned how to use the feathers to fly. Do we have something, some faculty, that we haven’t put to use the way the dinosaurs hadn’t put to use these feathers of theirs until later?

Other new dinosaur findings:

During the October 2009 dig, scientists also found 20 fossilized pterodactyls dating back more than 160 million years.

In early January 2010, another group of scientists found the oldest fossilized footprints made by a four-legged creature. The discovery of the footprints in a former quarry in the Holy Cross Mountains in southeastern Poland are thought to be 395 million years old—18 million years older than the earliest tetrapod (a vertebrate with limbs rather than fins) body fossils. The footprints are also 10 million years older than the earliest known elpistostegids—creatures which displayed some animal characteristics but retained fins.
via CNN and BBC News

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