Turns out the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park weren’t entirely accurate. Cue the Ian Malcolm laugh.
We’ve known dinosaurs had feathers for a while now. Researchers at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitat have discovered a new fossil of Archaeopteryx that reveals more info on the evolution of feathers in early birds and dinosaurs.
Archaeopteryx lived about 150 million years ago, during the late Jurassic period. It’s name means ancient wing. The Archaeopteryx is considered more of a transitional species and shared several characteristics with dinosaurs and modern birds.
“For the first time, it has become possible to examine the detailed structure of the feathers on the body, the tail and, above all, on the legs,” said Oliver Rauhut, one of the researchers, in a news release.
Several theories have popped up with the limited amount of Archaeopteryx specimens. Some believe the feathers were used for flight. Others say they were related to mating practices, such as today’s peacock. Some scientists even believe the Archaeopteryx could have been a four-winged glider due to the feathers on the animals’ hind limbs.
Well, the new find puts an end to the four-wing gliding theory. The new specimen sports 4 to 4.5 centimeter feathers on its hind limbs. But, the feathers were symmetrical on either side.
“These results contradict the hypothesis that the flapping flight of modern birds was preceded by a four-winged gliding stage,” the researchers wrote.
One interesting find shows the animal had asymmetrical feathers as long as 11.4 centimeters on its tail. This could have supported “a secondary aerodynamic function” such as lift according to researchers.
The team of researches looked at the evolution of feathers compared to other similar dinosaurs. Different features supported different functions. Some were believed to be used for insulation, others for maneuvering and display. Eventually, the feathers were “recruited for aerodynamic functions.”
The findings were published in the journal Nature.