Dinosaur Mysteries at the Maryland Science Center, Baltimore.
Also, some Bored Dads.
A less sympathetic interpretation might be that this is another poor attempt to try and shoot holes in what is actually a tremendously well supported phylogenetic model. What I really object to is the fact that Quick & Ruben (2009) seem to have written their paper with a hidden agenda in mind: in all of the press statements, they’ve been touting the idea that their paper helps falsify the dinosaurian ancestry of birds, with statements such as the following being thrown around: “It just seems pretty clear now that birds were evolving all along on their own and did not descend directly from the theropod dinosaurs, which lived many millions of years later” (this one was from Devon Quick). Yet this aspect of their approach is not discussed in the paper, nor stated explicitly. This is just downright dishonest. Look, if you have a problem with an idea – so much so that it inspires you to write a paper looking at one aspect of that subject, and so much so that you feel the need to discuss it at length with any journalist who displays interest in your research – at least have the decency and the balls to put your objections and reasoning into the technical literature. Papers are meant to report results, observations and hypotheses: they are not vehicles that allow you to preach your hidden agenda to the press.
The fact that Ruben has been saying things to the press like “Frankly, there’s a lot of museum politics involved in this, a lot of careers committed to a particular point of view” doesn’t encourage you to think that the authors have a realistic view of how and why we got where we are in the bird origins debate. Of course, creationists just love what Quick and Ruben have been saying.
Middle Jurassic to Early Cretaceous deposits from northeastern China have yielded varied theropod dinosaurs bearing feathers. Filamentous integumentary structures have also been described in ornithischian dinosaurs, but whether these filaments can be regarded as part of the evolutionary lineage toward feathers remains controversial. Here we describe a new basal neornithischian dinosaur from the Jurassic of Siberia with small scales around the distal hindlimb, larger imbricated scales around the tail, monofilaments around the head and the thorax, and more complex featherlike structures around the humerus, the femur, and the tibia. The discovery of these branched integumentary structures outside theropods suggests that featherlike structures coexisted with scales and were potentially widespread among the entire dinosaur clade; feathers may thus have been present in the earliest dinosaurs.
Pay-walled, but a link to pictures
Q:There is a push these days to picture most dinosaurs as having feathers to one degree or another. Do you agree? FWIW, I do to a certain extent but I cannot imagine an Apatosaurus being feathered.
It depends. Most theropods (bipedal mostly-carnivores like tyrannosaurs, “raptors,” birds etc.) were definitely feathered, since we have found fossilized feathers on representatives of most major groups. The big question with feathers in theropods right now is how far back feathers appeared in the group’s evolutionary history, and there is a ton of debate surrounding that. Personally, I think they probably go back pretty far — possibly even back to before even evolved from other archosaurs — but that is just me.
As for other dinosaur lineages, many probably didn’t have feathers, though a few (like some ceratopsians and heterodontosaurs) have been discovered with “hair” or quills. These discoveries are pretty new, and some are even unpublished, so we may discover even more of these astounding specimens. Here is a great article about it.
I don’t think anyone is seriously claiming that sauropods like Apatosaurus were feathered, since we have found a scaly skin impressions. We also have some scaly skin impressions for some hadrosaurs, ceratopsians, and ankylosaurs. But as the article states, that isn’t the be-all-end-all. For all we know, there could be some polar-adapted dinosaurs that grew shaggy coats to cope with the cold.
And with dinosaurs where we are still unsure, like with many early theropods, I say go nuts with the feathers! I think they look more interesting than plain skin anyway.
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