Lifelike model shows the first known plant-eating dinosaur with feathers and scales.
Its remains were found at a dinosaur graveyard in Kulinda, on the banks of the the Olov River in TransBaikal region, and now researcher Dr Pascal Godefroit, of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, has recreated the creature which was about one metre in length, and also shows its skeleton.
Officially called Kulindadromeus zabaikalicus, its fossils were preserved in volcanic ash including traces of its skin, scaled tails, and evidence of feathers.
There is no suggestion the bizarre dinosaur – which had a height of around 0.6 metre – could fly: its feathers – fluffy and downy like chicks – were to keep it warm, scientists believe.
Kulindadromeus zabaikalicus: full-size skeletal reconstruction by Jonica dos Remedios. Pictures: Th. Hubin/RBINS
Dr Maria McNamara, of Cork University, in Ireland, is now working on identifying the microstructure of the animal’s ‘proto-feathers’, and these secrets will be revealed in a forthcoming scientific publication.
The dinosaur remains were first discovered between 2010 and 2013 by Dr Sofia Sinitsa from Institute of Natural Resources, Ecology and Cryology, Chita. The discovery has led to scientific speculation that all dinosaurs could have been feathered, argued a paper in Science magazine.
‘It is a big discovery. It has completely changed our vision of dinosaurs’, said Dr Godefroit earlier.
The animal had a short snout, long hind legs, short arms, and five strong fingers. It had ‘reptile-like scales on its tail and shins, and short bristles on its head and back’.
Kulindadromeus zabaikalicus: full-size reconstruction by Mostafa Mohamed. Pictures: Th. Hubin/RBINS
‘The most astonishing discovery, however, is that it also has complex, compound feathers associated with its arms and legs,’ reported http://www.naturalsciences.be
Over several summer digs, the Russian-Belgian team excavated many dinosaur fossils, as well as plant and insect fossils.
Feather expert, Danielle Dhouailly from the Universite Joseph Fourier in La Tronche, France, told the Belgian site: ‘The feathers look like down feathers from some modern chickens.
‘When we compare them with the leg scales, it looks as if the scales are aborted feathers, an idea that has been suggested to explain why modern birds also have scaly bare legs.’ Six skulls and several hundred bones of this new dinosaur at the Kulinda locality.
Over several summer digs, the Russian-Belgian team excavated many dinosaur fossils, as well as plant and insect fossils. Pictures: T. Hubin/RBINS, V. Shevchenko
The model shown in pictures is currently being exhibited at the National Museum of Nature and Sciences in Tokyo.
Dr Godefroit said: ‘I was really amazed when I saw this. We knew that some of the plant-eating ornithischian dinosaurs had simple bristles, and we couldn’t be sure whether these were the same kinds of structures as bird and theropod feathers. Our new find clinches it: all dinosaurs had feathers, or at least the potential to sprout feathers.’
He added: ‘The fact that feathers have now been discovered in two distinct groups, theropods in China and ornithischians in Russia, means that the common ancestor of these species which might have existed 220 million years ago also probably had feathers.’