Monday, July 9, 2012

Fine-feathered fossil

"I was overwhelmed when I first saw it. Even apart from the preservation of feathers, this is certainly one of the most beautiful dinosaur fossils ever found." So says paleontologist Oliver Rauhut of the Bavarian State Collections of Palaeontology and Geology in Germany of the 150-million-year-old fossil of a juvenile squirrel (Sciurumimus albersdoerferii) discovered in a Bavarian limestone quarry. The 28" hatchling (pictured above, see it under UV light here) had long, hairlike plumage on its midsection, back, and tail. It was a megalosaur, a group of large 2-legged meat-eating dinosaurs. But until now, feathers had only been found on birdlike coelurosaurs. Because the squirrel evolved earlier and was unrelated, the find suggests that feathered dinosaurs were the norm, rather than the exception. "Probably all dinosaurs were feathered and we should say good bye to the familiar image of the overgrown lizards."

Thanks, Wendy!
Some of the most beautiful fossils in the Cabinet:

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