A New Feathered Troodontid Dinosaur with Asymmetrical Feathers – #365papers – 2017 – 127

#365papers for May 7, 2017

Xu, Currie, Pittman, Xing, Meng, Lu, Hu, and Yu, 2017, Mosaic evolution in an asymmetrically feathered troodontid dinosaur with transitional features: Nature Communications, doi:10.1038/ncomms14972

What’s it about?

This paper is a description of a new species of dinosaur, Jianianhualong tengi, from the famous Jehol Group of China. This new species shows a mixture of traits, some that are characteristic of non-flying dinosaurs and others characteristic of flying dinosaurs like Archaeopteryx. This includes asymmetrical feathers, stiff feathers that are thicker on one side of the central vein than on the other, which are a necessary adaptation for flight.

Why does it matter?

A major focus of research energy in paleontology is to understand the origins and evolution of flight. It is interesting to find asymmetric feathers on a dinosaur which would be early in the lineage that lead to birds which may or may not have been able to fly. This suggests that asymmetrical feathers may have appeared before flying was a thing.

Why did I read this?

Like many paleontologists, I have a deep interest in dinosaurs and the origins of flight. I mean, I do enjoy my own research on mammals and geochemistry, but I like to try to keep up with the latest on feathered and flying dinosaurs.

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