Did Dinosaurs Have Feathers?

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Did Dinosaurs Have Feathers?

Max Pollard, Editor Supreme

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Dinosaurs are among the best-known extinct organisms throughout all of earth’s timeline. They were an extremely diverse and successful group of reptiles, and the most dominant terrestrial vertebrates on earth for almost 150 million years. Despite their past dominance and prevalence however, humanity was completely unaware of dinosaurs and the massive role they played in the evolution of life on earth until quite recently.  Our understanding of these mighty animals and their history has changed drastically over the past 150 years, and we still continue to expand our knowledge of them today. Through pursuing an understanding of the dinosaurs, we can learn more about these prehistoric reptiles, and their living descendants.

Birds are now recognized as the living descendants of dinosaurs by the vast majority of the scientific community, but when or for what purpose they evolved is still a mystery. According to our current fossil record, birds as we know them diverged about 120 million years. Scientists have known about the presence of feathers in the close relatives and ancestors of birds such as the mighty T-Rex and other Ornithischian dinosaurs. Our understanding of the feather’s evolution is far from complete though, and has been challenged by relatively recent discoveries. One such discovery is the presence of feathers on theropod dinosaurs such as Jianianhualong tengi. These theropod dinosaurs are quite distant from the ornithischians, suggesting feathers evolved before their divergence.

Feathers are unanimously associated with birds in modern and ancient time, but this preconception is slowly being torn down by recent scientific efforts. While it is hard to say goodbye to the fully-scaled dinosaurs, popularized by media like the Jurassic Park, we are learning more and more about their true nature every year. Dinosaurs are amazing, terrifying, and beautiful creatures, whether they all had feathers or not.