Posted Thursday, April 5, 2012, at 3:48 PM
Big Bird's ancient relatives were way scarier.
Paleontologists in China have discovered the fossil remains of the largest known feathered animal, alive or extinct. Feathers aren't a new find in dinosaur hunting, but previously found feathered species were 40 times smaller than the 30-foot long adult found in the Liaoning Province in northeastern China.
Named Yutyrannus huali, a combination of Latin and Mandarin meaning “beautiful feathered tyrant,” the distant relative of T. Rex had feathers that resembled the fuzzy down of modern chicks. The findings also revealed that dinosaurs kept their feathers through adulthood, a fact that sweeps aside a notion that plumage was only for the young and shed as they grew.
While researchers pointed to the possibility of insulation in a cooling climate, the use of the feathers for appearances hasn't been totally ruled out either. Whatever the feathered giant means, the latest findings prove one thing without a doubt: It's an exciting time to be a paleontologist.
Video produced by Paca Thomas