Tag Archives: China

Adorable Dinosaurs

5 Apr

Hard evidence that giant tyrannosaurs were cuter than you ever thought possible


by Annalee Newitz of i09.

Imagine a tyrannosaur weighing one and a half tons, completely covered in soft, downy plumage. Even its tail is fluffy with feathers. Though we’ve known for a while that many dinosaurs were covered in feathers, a group of Chinese researchers have now provided direct evidence that gigantic, deadly tyrannosaurs might have looked a bit like wuffly birds. Three nearly complete, well-preserved fossils give us a glimpse of tyrannosaurs the way we’ve never seen them before.

The fossils were found in the Liaoning Province in China, in the “Yixian formation,” a package of rocks that is known to date to the early Cretaceous period. Described today in Nature magazine, the creatures are in the subgroup Tyrannosauroidea, which is part of the Therapod family that includes both the iconic T. Rex as well as winged dinosaurs who eventually evolved into today’s birds. The animals that paleontologist Xing Xu and colleagues dubbed Yutyrannus huali would have been quite large for tyrannosaurs (the largest, an adult, likely weighed almost 1.5 tons) and were probably the apex predators of their region.

The researchers write:

Most significantly, Y. huali bears long filamentous feathers, thus providing direct evidence for the presence of extensively feathered gigantic dinosaurs and offering new insights into early feather evolution.

Hard evidence that giant tyrannosaurs were cuter than you ever thought possible

In these fossils, you can see the long, flowing tail feathers that would have trailed out behind these huge beasts. The question that Xu and his team ask is why these large dinosaurs would have needed feathers. Usually feathers and fur are used for insulation, but creatures with large bodies often lose their hair because they generate enough body heat that insulation is unnecessary. Y. huali is by far the largest dinosaur known to have had feathers, and there is plenty of fossil evidence that other large tyrannosaurs had scaly skin.

The researchers speculate that these tyrannosaurs may have been adapted to extremely cold environments, while other tyrannosaurs lived in more tropical regions. Another possibility is thatY. huali didn’t have feathers all over its body — it might have had some areas of bright plumage for display, but scales elsewhere.

Read the whole scientific article in Nature

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Science Quickies: Mega-Greenhouse, New Cousins, Musical Pi, Super Flu Findings

22 Mar

I’ve been meaning to post these for days now, but life was busy, and I am tired of having dozens of tabs open at once.

NPR talks about a new shift in gender roles as more and more women are out-earning their male counterparts and companions.

A musical interpretation of Pi which is pretty awesome.

An article from late last year detailing how there is evidence of a great lake on Europa, and the possibilities of life there.

Human fossils were found in China that are unlike any others seen. Say hi to a new species, our long lost cousin! The skull was unearthed in 1979, but hasn’t been fully analyzed until now, because sometimes science is annoyingly slow. They have been dubbed the Red Deer Cave People.

You may have heard about the controversy surrounding the debate on whether or not scientists should fully release their findings regarding a mutated “super virus,” created from the bird flu virus. If not, this brief sound bite sums it up nicely.

In environmental and energy news, a vertical greenhouse could make the Swedish city of Linköping self-sufficient. It’s set to open late next year, and hopefully will be a model for other cities.

Doctors Without Borders have released a brief clip explaining how they are tracking sleeping sickness across Africa.