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PORTSIDE  April 2012, Week 1

PORTSIDE April 2012, Week 1

Subject:

Humongous Fuzzy Dinosaur Unearthed in China (+Video)

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Date:

Fri, 6 Apr 2012 22:38:13 -0400

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[For an accompanying video, click on the link below or
on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WCZ6XTagLFg --
moderator.]

Humongous Fuzzy Dinosaur Unearthed in China (+Video)

     An ancestor of Tyrannosaurus rex, Yutyrannus huali
     weighed 3,000 pounds and was covered in a downy
     fuzz.

By Jennifer Welsh,
LiveScience Staff Writer /
April 5, 2012
http://www.csmonitor.com/Science/2012/0405/Humongous-fuzzy-dinosaur-unearthed-in-China-video

Picture: Artist's impression of a group of Yutyrannus
and two individuals of the smaller Beipiaosaurus. Brian
Choo

A newly discovered titanic tyrannosaur is the biggest
feathered dinosaur yet, reaching up to 30 feet (9
meters) long and weighing more than 3,000 pounds.

A video from the Discovery Channel describes how
scientists know that dinosaurs had feathers.
While smaller than Tyrannosaurus rex, the new species,
named Yutyrannus huali - meaning "beautiful feathered
tyrant" - is still 40 times the weight of the largest
feathered dinosaur known previously, Beipiaosaurus,
which was described in 1999.

"Yutyrannus dramatically increases the size range of
dinosaurs for which we have definite evidence of
feathers," study researcher Xing Xu of the Chinese
Academy of Sciences in Beijing said in a statement.
"It's possible that feathers were much more widespread,
at least among the meat-eating dinosaurs, than most
scientists would have guessed even a few years ago."

The researchers found three well-preserved fossils of
the species in a dig in Liaoning Province, in
northeastern China, the same place Xu and his colleagues
discovered Beipiaosaurus. [Album: The World's Biggest
Beasts]

Tyrant lizards

The groups of dinosaurs known as the Tyrannosauroidea,
which gave rise to the majestic Tyrannosaurus rex, lived
for more than 100 million years through the middle
Jurassic (about 180 million years ago) until the K-T
extinction event at the end of the Cretaceous about 65
million years ago.

From known fossils, researchers think this group started
out as small, feathered dinosaurs and grew into large,
scaly tyrant lizards only later in the Cretaceous.
Yutyrannus huali is the first example of this type of
large, T. rex-type dinosaur in the early Cretaceous.

The find indicates that tyrannosaurus-type dinosaurs
played a major role as large predators earlier than
thought.

Feathered fury

The researchers discovered fossils of the dinosaur's
feathers and were able to clearly make out that the
large dinosaur was one shaggy predator.

"The feathers of Yutyrannus were simple filaments," Xu
said. "They were more like the fuzzy down of a modern
baby chick than the stiff plumes of an adult bird." The
hairlike feather filaments were about 6 inches (15
centimeters) long and probably covered the majority of
the animal's body.

The feathers weren't used for flight, but to keep the
giant lizard warm, an interesting adaption in dinosaurs,
a group typically thought of as "cold-blooded," Xu said.

"The idea that primitive feathers could have been for
insulation rather than flight has been around for a long
time," study researcher Corwin Sullivan, a
paleontologist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said
in a statement. "However, large-bodied animals typically
can retain heat quite easily, and actually have more of
a potential problem with overheating. That makes
Yutyrannus, which is large and downright shaggy, a bit
of a surprise."

The explanation may be climate-related, the researchers
say. While the Cretaceous Period was generally very
warm,Yutyrannus lived during the middle part of the
Early Cretaceous, when temperatures are thought to have
been somewhat cooler than the Late Cretaceous, when T.
rex lived.

The study was published today (April 4) in the journal
Nature.

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