Unusual fossil of feathered dino found

2012-07-03 11:29
Skeleton of Sciurumimus as found on a limestone slab (H Tischlinger\Jura Museum Eichstatt)

Skeleton of Sciurumimus as found on a limestone slab (H Tischlinger\Jura Museum Eichstatt)

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Washington - German researchers said on Monday they have discovered a fossil of a feathered hatchling that may be the earliest evidence of a plumed, meat-eating dinosaur that was not closely related to birds.

The fossil is believed to belong to a young land-based dinosaur from the Late Jurassic period, some 170 million years ago, said the study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Named Sciurumimus albersdoerferi, in part after its bushy, squirrel-like tail - tree squirrels come from the genus Sciurus - it is the "most complete megalosauroid fossil yet", the study said.

Megalosauroid is the name for a wide-ranging group of carnivorous dinosaurs that could grow as big as 9m and weigh up to one ton.

The fossil, which shows a juvenile dinosaur with its jaws open and tail extending far over its head, was found in a quarry in Bavaria, Germany.

The hatchling likely had a large skull, shorter hind limbs and smooth skin with feathers covering its entire body.

Earlier this year, palaeontologists in China said they had found a bizarre species of giant feathered dinosaur that weighed as much as a car and was related to the Tyrannosaurus Rex.

The soil has been dated to around 125 million years ago to the mid-Cretaceous period, at the peak of the dinosaurs' long reign over the planet.

That new species was named Yutyrannus huali, an amalgam of Latin and Mandarin which means "beautiful feathered tyrant".

Read more on:    research  |  palaeontology  |  dinosaurs
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