| NEW BIRDLIKE DINOSAURS ON VIEW:
COULD T. REX HAVE HAD FEATHERS?
For Immediate Release
WASHINGTONThree fossil dinosaurs from China with stunningly birdlike
bones and indications of feathersone a species completely new to scienceare to be unveiled October 15 at the National Geographic Societys Explorers
Hall. The fossils provide new, persuasive evidence of the link between
dinosaurs and birds and of the belief that feathers were widespread among
meat-eating dinosaurs, maybe even Tyrannosaurus rex.
The fossils, never displayed before, are the most recent to come out
of Chinas Liaoning Province, the area that has produced other fossils of
feathered dinosaurs. All of the animals were fast, bipedal meat-eaters
known as theropods. The dinosaurs story is told in the November issue of
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC magazine by senior assistant editor Christopher P.
The three fossils represent two species introduced in recent months as
well as onethe most birdlike of them allthat is completely new to
science. The three species:
- Archaeoraptor liaoningensis, presented for the first time in
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, is a true missing link in the complex chain that
connects dinosaurs to birds. It seems to capture the paleontological
moment when dinosaurs were becoming birds.
Archaeoraptor, which lived more than 120 million years ago, had a
dramatic combination of physical characteristicsa very advanced,
birdlike shoulder structure, wishbone and big sternumall indicating the
animal was a powerful flier. Remains of feathers surround the specimens
bones. Yet its tail was strikingly similar to the stiff tails of a family of
predatory dinosaurs known as dromaeosaurs, which includes the raptors of
This mix of advanced and primitive features is exactly what
scientists would expect to find in dinosaurs experimenting with flight,
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC magazine says.
The remarkable specimen from China originally was found on the open market in the United States and brought to the attention of Stephen and Sylvia Czerkas, directors of the
Dinosaur Museum of Blanding, Utah; museum patrons then secured the fossil
for scientific study. However, because of the fossils extraordinary
significance the directors plan to return it to an institution in China
after in-depth study.
A life-size, foot-tall reconstruction of Archaeoraptor by Stephen
Czerkas will help bring the animal to life in the exhibit.
- Sinornithosaurus milleniiChinese bird-reptile of the millennium is a dromaeosaur with long arms and a coat of downy feathers, a shoulder
girdle and birdlike wishbone. If you saw just this shoulder girdle, you
would think it was Archaeopteryx, the earliest bird, said paleontologist
Xu Xing of China, who has been involved in identifying and studying the
species. Barracuda-like teeth and long, curved claws give the animal a
fierce look. A model of Sinornithosaurus, arms outspread like a birds,
also will appear in the exhibit. Xu will attend the exhibit opening and
discuss the species, which was first announced in September.
- Beipiaosaurus inexpectussurprising lizard from Beipiaoa
long-necked, long-clawed theropod, is at 7 feet (about 2 meters) in length the largest
feathered dinosaur yet found. The fossil bears pink, comblike impressions
that suggest stiff, narrow feathers. Beipiaosaurus did not fly but may have
used the feathers for insulation. That species, identified after Chinese
farmers discarded the bones, thinking they had no commercial value, was
unveiled earlier this year.
These dinosaurs support the concept that early feathers evolved for
insulation or display rather than flight. And because today the only
creatures covered with feathers or hair have the high metabolic rates of
warm-blooded animals, the discovery gives new weight to the idea that these
dinosaurs were warm-blooded.
The discoveries mean that depictions of many species may have to
change as museums rethink the appearance of these precursors of modern
birds. And that may include T. rex, at least T. rex young: When they were
small, they could have used the feathers for warmth. If adult T. rex had feathers, it was probably only for display, said Philip Currie, curator of
dinosaurs at Canadas Royal Tyrrell Museum in Alberta, who has helped
identify the species.
One dinosaur has already made the switch: The National Geographic
exhibit will showcase a model of a dromaeosaur known as Deinonychusin
The dinosaurs will be on display October 15, 1999, through January 18, 2000.
Explorers Hall is on the first floor of the National Geographic Societys
headquarters at 17th and M Streets N.W. Its open Monday through Saturday
from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET. Admission is free.
For more information on the exhibits, the public should call +1 202
National Geographic EXPLORER will feature exclusive television
coverage of the new dinosaurs in Dinosaurs Take Wing, to air at 8 p.m.
PT/ET on Sunday, November 14, only on CNBC.
Audio and video coverage of the press preview will be available online
at: www.nationalgeographic.com/events/99/feather. More details at
www.ngnews.com. Explore the question of Why Feathers at
October 15, 1999
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