I love dinosaurs. This dromeosaur was recently found to have had feathers and proto-wings. Excerpt:
If the original “Jurassic Park” film was made today, its velociraptors may have had feathers. A study from the the University of Edinburgh reveals that fossils of a new dinosaur dubbed Zhenyuanlong suni — a close cousin of the iconic raptor — were recently discovered in China. Unlike its movie star relative, this dinosaur had feathers and wings.
“This is the largest feathered dinosaur [discovered] with a complex set of wings, made up of layers of quill-pen-type feathers, “ study co-author and University of Edinburgh paleontologist Steve Brussatte told Foxnews.com. “It was about six and a half feet long and weighed 44 pounds, or so. Not a giant compared to T. rex or Brachiosaurus, but very big for a dinosaur with huge wings.”
The fossils were discovered in Liaoning Province in northeastern China, where thousands of other feathered dinosaurs have been unearthed. The skeleton was found complete and remarkably well–preserved, which Brussatte attributed to volcanic activity in the area.
“Volcanoes would occasionally erupt and bury these animals, turning them to stone, like a prehistoric Pompeii,” he said. “They were buried so quickly, in the right chemical environment, that soft tissues like feathers didn’t have time to decay, so they were often preserved.”
The link between dinosaurs and birds – who are actually dinosaurs, a branch of the Theropods – is so fuzzy as to be impossible to draw a line and say “on this side is (non-avian) dinosaurs, on this side is birds.” But biology is like that. The Permian transitions between reptiles and mammals is similar; there is no solid dividing line.
But that’s how biology works. Evolution doesn’t proceed in a straight line. It’s a drunkard’s walk between environments and ages, with dead ends, fits and starts; the story of life on Earth has been a massive branching tree with lots of broken branches and even a few that split and then rejoin. It’s messy. It’s chaotic. That’s probably why plenty of folks don’t understand it.
I find it fascinating.