Tech - News
Scientists Confirm a Controversial Physical Feature of This Prehistoric Creature
Even though a theory posits that the closest descendants of the Tyrannosaurus rex are modern-day birds, it’s still difficult to picture a feathered dinosaur. Pterosaurs were flying reptiles closely related to dinosaurs and around for most of the Mesozoic era. According to a recently examined fossil, these prehistoric creatures had feathers.
However, these feathers were fairly small, indicating that they weren’t used to help the pterosaurs fly. Instead, the feathers could have played a role in regulating body temperature, serving as a sort of fluffy covering that helped the pterosaurs stay warm, or might have been for visual communication, such as attracting potential mates or scaring enemies.
The pterosaurs’ feathers were not only branched, much like today’s birds, but also possibly quite colorful, as scientists detected in the fossil the presence of melanosomes, an intracellular organelle that affects the color of feathers in birds. What's perhaps more interesting is that feathers as a feature may be much older than initially believed.
Estimated to be around 113 million years old, the fossil suggests that feathers may have first emerged as early as around 250 million years ago in animals similar to pterosaurs, given that birds, dinosaurs, and pterosaurs all share similar ancestors. This would indicate the emergence of feathers to have come 100 million years earlier than previously thought.