Research suggests T. Rex was covered in scales instead of feathers

‘What we see here is actually evidence of feathers evolving and then being lost…’

Research suggests Tyrannosaurus rex and some of its close relatives were covered in tiny scales and not feathers as many scientists previously thought.

An international team of researchers, including University of Alberta paleontologists, studied fossilized skin from massive carnivorous lizards known as tyrannosaurids.

Their ancestors, which were about the size of wolves or leopards, were coated in feathery fuzz, but somewhere along the way their descendants seem to have lost that attribute, said paleontologist Scott Persons, who contributed to the study.

“What we see here is actually evidence of feathers evolving and then being lost – or at least greatly reduced in terms of their number – in this one lineage of dinosaurs, which is strange,” he said.

A completely separate branch of the dinosaur family tree included an uninterrupted line of feathered carnivores, including the Velociraptor, that are related to today’s birds.

Persons’ interest was piqued when his U of A colleague and mentor, renowned paleontologist Philip Currie, showed him a skin sample from a specimen found in Alberta.

A team of U of A researchers got to work, but soon got wind of another group studying a different skin fossil.

“Rather than competing with each other in a rush to see who could be the first to publish on it, we all pooled our resources and, as a result, we have a really cool study that talks about skin in multiple species of tyrannosaurids, which is pretty gosh darn cool.”

The combined team included researchers from Canada, the United States and Australia.

It’s rare to find fossilized dinosaur skin, but advances in preparation techniques are making discoveries more common. Often, a researcher won’t even know there is skin attached to a fossil until after it’s taken back to the lab.

The scientists can’t say for certain why feathers went by the wayside in tyrannosaurids, but Persons said he suspects it has to do with the animals’ size, as the bigger you are, the harder it is to stay cool.

He notes elephants and rhinos today have little in the way of hair.

“You’re better off not being out in the savannah in the hot sun while wearing a down jacket.”

Because the skin specimens were relatively small, it’s impossible to say whether the dinosaurs were entirely featherless, or if they had isolated patches on their bodies, such as a crest atop their heads.

To know for sure, Persons said paleontologists would need to find a tyrannosaurid that had been completely mummified.

“They’re probably buried somewhere out there and it’s really just a matter of time before we get lucky enough and uncover one.”

The Canadian Press

Just Posted

VIDEO: Orcas put on a show near Hornby Island

Louis Jobodin shares photos and video of his experience

Passengers bound for Victoria say Sunwing left them stranded in Abbotsford

Company says late arrival led to difficulties securing accommodation, transportation

Island-filmed TV series gets third season

Crews returning to Parksville Qualicum Beach to film in the spring

Ladysmith marijuana producer bought by Aphria in $230M deal

Ontario licensed marijuana producer Aphria has reached an agreement to acquire Ladysmith-based… Continue reading

Sutherland steps down as SOS executive director

From receptionist to executive director

Views in The NEWS, Jan. 16

We asked: What is a necessity for you on a camping trip?

Did you get Hitched in Courtenay on Sunday?

The first annual wedding show saw big crowds and included two fashion shows

Ice dancers Virtue and Moir to carry flag for Canada at 2018 Olympics

The pair earned a gold medal at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games

Corfield Street work continues in Parksville

Delays, alternating traffic can be expected

Highway maintenance to cause delays in Whiskey Creek

Alberni Highway motorists face lane closures morning of Jan. 18

UPDATE: Police continue to seek missing Qualicum Beach woman

Oceanside RCMP requesting public assistance in locating Carmel Georgina Gilmour

Diplomacy on agenda at North Korea summit in Vancouver

Foreign ministers from 20 countries are meeting Tuesday to discuss security and stability on the Korean Peninsula.

Kids chained in Calif. house of horrors; parents arrested

Authorities say an emaciated teenager led deputies to home where her 12 brothers and sisters were locked up in filthy conditions

Most Read