First dinosaur found with its body covering intact; displays primitive feathers from head to toe

Discovery of remarkably preserved fossil dinosaur from China on display at American Museum of Natural History beginning April 25

(New York - April 25, 2001) A team of Chinese and American scientists announced today in Nature the discovery of a remarkably preserved, 130-million-year-old fossil dinosaur covered from head to tail with downy fluff and primitive feathers. It is the first dinosaur found with its entire body covering intact, providing the best evidence yet that animals developed feathers for warmth before they could fly.

The dinosaur was unearthed last spring by farmers digging in the famous fossil beds of northeastern Chinas Liaoning Province. It is described in the science journal Nature by a team led by Ji Qiang, of the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences, and Mark Norell, Chairman of the Division of Paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History.

The researchers have identified the fossil animal as a dromaeosaur, a small, fast-running dinosaur closely related to Velociraptor with a sickle claw on its middle toe and stiffening rods in its tail. Dromaeosaurs belong to a group of dinosaurs known as advanced theropods, two-legged predators including Tyrannosaurus rex, with sharp teeth and bones strikingly similar to those of modern-day birds.

This fossil radically modifies our vision of these extinct animals, said Dr. Norell, whose discoveries in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia have led to new ideas about theropods and bird origins. It shows us that advanced theropod dinosaurs may have looked more like weird birds than giant lizards. Entombed in two slabs of fine-grained rock, the dinosaurs skeleton resembles that of a large duck with a long tail and an oversized head (indicating that the animal was a juvenile). A small fish is embedded in the rock near its left foot. Its head and tail are covered with downy fibers. Other parts of its body sprout tufts or sprays of filaments resembling primiti

Contact: Anne Canty
American Museum of Natural History

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