It Turns Out Feathers Are 70M Years Older Than We Thought

first_imgStay on target Egg Fossils Provide Glimpse Into Prehistoric ParentingBoy Uncovers Rare Woolly Mammoth Tooth Outside Ohio Resort A new discovery pushes the origin of feathers back by 70 million years.Paleontologists found that pterosaurs had at least four types of feathers in common with the dinosaurs they lived alongside 230 to 66 million years ago.The flying reptiles are believed to have been covered in a sort of furry down, known as “pycnofibers”—presumed to be fundamentally different to feathers of dinosaurs and birds.However, in a new paper published by the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution, researchers from China and the UK highlight at least four types of pterosaur feathers:simple filaments (“hairs”)bundles of filamentsfilaments with a tuft halfway downdown feathers“Some critics have suggested that actually there is only one simple type of pycnofiber, but our studies show the different feather types are real,” Maria McNamara, of University College Cork, said in a statement.The different versions are also known from two major groups of dinosaurs: plant-eating ornithischians and theropods, which include the ancestors of birds.Following an excavation in Inner Mongolia, pterosaur specimens were imaged using Laser-Stimulated Fluorescence (LSF), a technique developed by study co-authors Michael Pittman from the University of Hong Kong and Tom Kaye of the Foundation for Science Advancement.Researchers found various examples of all four feathers.“We ran some evolutionary analyses and they showed clearly that the pterosaur pycnofibers are feathers, just like those seen in modern birds and across various dinosaur groups,” according to Mike Benton, a professor at the University of Bristol’s School of Earth Sciences.“Despite careful searching, we couldn’t find any anatomical evidence that the four pycnofiber types are in any way different from the feathers of birds and dinosaurs,” he explained. “Therefore, because they are the same, they must share an evolutionary origin, and that was about 250 million years ago, long before the origin of birds.”More on Bird Fossil Discovered in Museum StorageAmazingly Well-Preserved Fossil Shines Light on Ancient IchthyosaurWorld’s Oldest Wild Bird Still Has It, Lays Another Egglast_img

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