October 26, 2012
Evidence of first feathered dinosaurs in North America found in Alta.
By Jenna McMurray, QMI Agency
CALGARY - Researchers have made a monstrous discovery in the 75-million-year-old rocks of Alberta's badlands.
The work of paleontologists Francois Therrien with the Royal Tyrrell Museum and Darla Zelenitsky of the University of Calgary shows fossil evidence of the first feathered dinosaurs from North America.
Ornithomimids were ostrich-like dinosaurs, long portrayed as hairless, fleet-footed creatures, but the latest research shows they actually boasted feathers and wing-like structures.
The researchers found proof of feathers preserved in three skeletons -- a juvenile and two adults.
The specimens also suggested Ornithomimus, a species in the Ornithomimid family, maintained a base of down-like feathers throughout its life, but older individuals grew larger feathers on their arms, creating a type of wing.
"This pattern differs from that seen in birds, where the wings generally develop very young, soon after hatching," Zelenitsky said.
Since the dinosaurs were too big to fly, it's believed the wing-like features may have been used for mating display or to care for eggs.
"The fact that wing-like forelimbs developed in more mature individuals suggests they were used only later in life, perhaps associated with reproductive behaviours like display or egg brooding," Therrien said.
The find is considered extremely significant.
"This is a really exciting discovery as it represents the first feathered dinosaur specimens found in the Western Hemisphere," Zelenitsky said.
Feathered skeletons have previously been recovered almost exclusively in China and Germany.
The fossils are expected to be on display at the Royal Tyrrell Museum by Nov. 9.