One species of dinosaur wore a bandit mask

IN RECENT years it has become clear that many, if not all, dinosaurs belonging to a group called the theropods had feathers. One line of these creatures gave rise to birds. But the rest, though they could not fly, nevertheless seem to have had patterns in their plumage, just as birds do. This can be seen from the distribution in their fossils of pigment particles called melanosomes. And a study led by Fiann Smithwick and Jakob Vinther at the University of Bristol, published this week in Current Biology, reports the discovery of remarkable markings on the face of one such theropod. Sinosauropteryx, it seems, wore bandit masks.

Sinosauropteryx (pictured, with feathers clearly visible) was a metre-long animal that lived 126m years ago, during the Cretaceous period, in what is now China. To determine whether its plumage pattern might be deciphered, Dr Vinther flew there to…Continue reading
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