The Ornithomimus dinosaur fossil had preserved tail feathers and skin.
A student with the University of Alberta has discovered a dinosaur fossil that has preserved tail feathers and skin, which further closes the link between dinosaurs and birds, according to a press release put out by the university.
The Ornithomimus dinosaur further sheds light on the convergent evolution of dinosaurs with large birds such as ostriches and emus.
“We now know what the plumage looked like on the tail, and that from the mid-femur down, it had bare skin,” said Aaron van der Reest, lead author of the paper, “A densely feathered ornithomimid (Dinosauria: Theropoda) from the Upper Cretaceous Dinosaur Park Formation, Alberta, Canada”
According to the researchers, Ornithomimus is the first dinosaur fossil that details extensive plumaceous feathers. And these feathers are more elongate than those found on the rest of the dinosaur’s body. Van der Reest and his colleagues say the plumage pattern of Ornithomimus is very similar to that of the ostrich (Struthio camelu) and other large flightless birds. They believe that the feathers help with thermoregulation. Furthermore the fossil sports skin that forms a web from the femoral shaft of to the abdomen, which the researchers say has never been seen before in non-avian dinosaurs.
“This specimen also tightens the linkages between dinosaurs and birds, in particular with respect to theropods,” said Alex Wolfe, a co-author of the paper detailing Ornithomimus. “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.”