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Dinosaur found with preserved tail feathers, skin

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Artist’s impression of Ornithomimus/Julius Csotonyi

From ScienceDaily:

“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. This is the first report of such preserved skin forming a web from the femoral shaft to the abdomen, never before seen in non-avian dinosaurs. “Ostriches use bare skin to thermoregulate. Because the plumage on this specimen is virtually identical to that of an ostrich, we can infer that Ornithomimus was likely doing the same thing, using feathered regions on their body to maintain body temperature. It would’ve looked a lot like an ostrich.” In fact, this group of animals–referred to as ornithomimids–is commonly referred to as “ostrich mimics.”

The find is said to strengthen the link between dinosaurs and birds.

“This specimen also tightens the linkages between dinosaurs and birds, in particular with respect to theropods,” says Alex Wolfe, second author on the paper. “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.” More.

If so, not much evolution in feather chemistry happened in all that time.

Should we add the feathers to our giant stasis chart?

See also: Stasis: Life goes on but evolution does not happen

Here’s the abstract:

A recently discovered articulated partial skeleton of Ornithomimus from the Upper Cretaceous Dinosaur Park Formation of Alberta, Canada is remarkable in the extent and quality of preservation of integumentary structures including feathers. It is the first ornithomimid to preserve a tail bearing extensive plumaceous feathers that are slightly more elongate in comparison to those present on the remainder of the body. However, the underside of the tail and the hind limb distal to the middle of the femur appear devoid of plumage. Overall, the plumage pattern in Ornithomimus is similar to that of Struthio camelus (ostrich) and other large palaeognaths, indicating a probable function in thermoregulation. The specimen also preserves the body outline around the legs, including a skin contour anterior to the femur, analogous to skin webs in extant birds. Whereas the knee web of birds bridges the knee to the abdomen, in Ornithomimus it spans from the mid-femoral shaft to the abdomen, and is herein referred to as an anterior femoral web. This is the first report of such soft tissue structures in non-avian theropods. It may indicate that the resting position of the femur was positioned more anteroventrally in ornithomimids than in most theropods, and in that sense may have been transitional to the situation in modern birds. (paywall) – Aaron J. van der Reest, Alexander P. Wolfe, Philip J. Currie. A densely feathered ornithomimid (Dinosauria: Theropoda) from the Upper Cretaceous Dinosaur Park Formation, Alberta, Canada. Cretaceous Research, 2016; 58: 108 DOI: 10.1016/j.cretres.2015.10.004

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11 Replies to “Dinosaur found with preserved tail feathers, skin

  1. 1
    Robert Byers says:

    Well. As a option. Is it possible that this ostrich like dino IS just a ostrich.
    Its just a bird with certain other traits . It should be grouped by its bird traits and not its dino ones. There are no dino division. they are kist kinds with certain traits with other kinds and wrongly classified as a dino group. Just as there are no mammal or reptile divisions. OPr marsupial etc etc etc.
    I don’t know if this “dino’ was just a big bird. Yet its a option.The fossil record shows hugh birds existed in Madagascar, New Zealand, S America etc.
    it would be funny if it turns out to be just a dumb bird of a certain tough variety.

  2. 2
    tjguy says:

    Any word as to how in the world this soft tissue was able to withstand 70 million + years of geologic processes and remain soft?

    Was it buried in blood and preserved by iron?

    Hmm.

  3. 3
    Mung says:

    This is exactly what ID would predict.

    Where are all those skeptics now?

  4. 4
    Mung says:

    Channeling Zachriel…

    Dinosaurs lived a long time ago.

  5. 5
    tjguy says:

    Mung @4

    Dinosaurs lived a long time ago.

    Yes, that is the story line, but soft tissue makes that belief questionable in my opinion. We know of no current means for such a thing(preservation of soft tissue through millions of years of geologic processes) to happen. So, there are two ways to interpret the data. Young earthers will see this as data that supports their paradigm and old earthers of all varieties, will simply say “Even though we can’t explain it, we have enough other evidence to know it had to have happened, so it doesn’t affect our paradigm.”

    In the end, it is the paradigm that interprets the data.

  6. 6
    Mung says:

    ok, that one failed. Let me try again.

    Dinosaurs are deuterostomes. You’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.

  7. 7
    Dr JDD says:

    Tjguy:
    And this is the irony of it all. The result fits a uniformitarian view and it is accepted, no questions. A result goes against that view and a new interpretation must be thought up to shoe-horn the finding into the prevailing a priori paradigm.

    However, if one DARES to do the reverse (suggest the uniformitarian view is flawed) they are labelled a heretic.

    Classic head’s you win tails I lose.

    But here is the thing – we can measure soft tissue decay. We cannot go back to the point of fossilization and see what happened but we can measure how soft tissues decay, to a degree.

    Of course the high iron content argument comes out but this did not support the 60m or so age of those bones, it just lengthened older estimates.

    Until someone can determine a real, plausible mechanism for long term preservation of soft tissue that is actually a good explanation and predictable, the onus is on the long agers to prove the age as this is something measurable not assumptive.

  8. 8
    Zachriel says:

    Mung: Dinosaurs are deuterostomes.

    Birds are theropods.

  9. 9
    Virgil Cain says:

    Zachriel:

    Birds are theropods.

    And unguided evolution cannot account for birds.

  10. 10
    Vy says:

    Dr. JDD, Schweitzer’s iron experiment is a pathetic cop out. It does NOT work.

    It’s incredulous to think you can extrapolate the effects observed in two years over SIXTY MILLION years. Uh uh, to say such an extrapolation is absurd would be a compliment.

  11. 11
    tjguy says:

    Vy @ 10

    It’s incredulous to think you can extrapolate the effects observed in two years over SIXTY MILLION years. Uh uh, to say such an extrapolation is absurd would be a compliment.

    That, plus the fact, that the iron argument does not hold true for most of the soft tissue finds. Not all of them were soaked in blood – if indeed even the first one was.

    So, yes, totally agree with you, but, regardless, it doesn’t solve the problem. The argument goes against everything we know experimentally(by using the scientific method) about tissue decay!

    It’s not the evidence so much as the paradigm!

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