Dinosaur With Preserved Tail Feathers And Skin Discovered: Links Birds With Dinosaurs

First Posted: Oct 28, 2015 01:43 PM EDT

Researchers discovered an Ornithomimus dinosaur with well-preserved tail feathers and soft tissues. The new finding is shedding light on the evolution and links between dinosaurs and birds, according to a study at University of Alberta.

"This specimen also tightens the linkages between dinosaurs and birds, in particular with respect to theropods," said Alex Wolfe, in a news release, who is an author of the study. "There are so many components of the morphology of this fossil as well as the chemistry of the feathers that are essentially indistinguishable from modern birds."

The new findings will enable researchers to compare evolutionary traits between dinosaurs, ostriches and emus, regarding their thermoregulation. Modern birds are also included in the comparison equation, according to the researchers.

From the specimen, the researchers found similar traits to ostriches and some modern birds.

Ostriches use bare skin to thermoregulate, and the researchers found identical traits from the specimen. The Ornithomimus was doing the same thing as the ostriches, using feathered regions on their body to maintain body temperature. The researchers found a three-dimensional keratin structure to the feathers on the tail and body of the specimen.

"We now know what the plumage looked like on the tail, and that from the mid-femur down, it had bare skin," says Aaron van der Reest, who made the discovery.

The specimen will enable researchers to further determine how these animals adapted and survived in different environments.

"We are getting the newest information on what these animals may have looked like, how they maintained body temperatures, and the stages of feather evolution," van der Reest said.

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