Research suggests T. Rex was covered in scales instead of feathers

‘What we see here is actually evidence of feathers evolving and then being lost…’

Research suggests Tyrannosaurus rex and some of its close relatives were covered in tiny scales and not feathers as many scientists previously thought.

An international team of researchers, including University of Alberta paleontologists, studied fossilized skin from massive carnivorous lizards known as tyrannosaurids.

Their ancestors, which were about the size of wolves or leopards, were coated in feathery fuzz, but somewhere along the way their descendants seem to have lost that attribute, said paleontologist Scott Persons, who contributed to the study.

“What we see here is actually evidence of feathers evolving and then being lost – or at least greatly reduced in terms of their number – in this one lineage of dinosaurs, which is strange,” he said.

A completely separate branch of the dinosaur family tree included an uninterrupted line of feathered carnivores, including the Velociraptor, that are related to today’s birds.

Persons’ interest was piqued when his U of A colleague and mentor, renowned paleontologist Philip Currie, showed him a skin sample from a specimen found in Alberta.

A team of U of A researchers got to work, but soon got wind of another group studying a different skin fossil.

“Rather than competing with each other in a rush to see who could be the first to publish on it, we all pooled our resources and, as a result, we have a really cool study that talks about skin in multiple species of tyrannosaurids, which is pretty gosh darn cool.”

The combined team included researchers from Canada, the United States and Australia.

It’s rare to find fossilized dinosaur skin, but advances in preparation techniques are making discoveries more common. Often, a researcher won’t even know there is skin attached to a fossil until after it’s taken back to the lab.

The scientists can’t say for certain why feathers went by the wayside in tyrannosaurids, but Persons said he suspects it has to do with the animals’ size, as the bigger you are, the harder it is to stay cool.

He notes elephants and rhinos today have little in the way of hair.

“You’re better off not being out in the savannah in the hot sun while wearing a down jacket.”

Because the skin specimens were relatively small, it’s impossible to say whether the dinosaurs were entirely featherless, or if they had isolated patches on their bodies, such as a crest atop their heads.

To know for sure, Persons said paleontologists would need to find a tyrannosaurid that had been completely mummified.

“They’re probably buried somewhere out there and it’s really just a matter of time before we get lucky enough and uncover one.”

The Canadian Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Brody Peterson told The Gazette he intends to dispute tickets issued by Grand Forks RCMP at his backyard “house warming” Saturday, Oct. 10. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Brody Peterson told The Gazette he intends to dispute tickets issued by Grand Forks RCMP at his backyard “house warming” Saturday, Oct. 10. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Grand Forks RCMP recommend criminal charges after weekend party

Homeowner Brody Peterson said he’ll dispute tickets for refusing police instructions, alleged COVID violations

Potential designs for 85 Station St. were presented last month to the City of Duncan by the Portland-based architecture and planning firm Communitecture. (Courtesy of Communitecture)
City of Duncan considers applying for grant for Station Street project

New provincial program offers grants of up to $1 million

The bus is free to ride on Oct. 24 so voters can get to the polls to cast their ballots in the provincial election. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)
Free transit on Election Day in Cowichan

all day and on all regular routes

Painters Jim Tulip, Doug Mackenzie and Gary Henslowe were painting the exterior of the Duncan Butcher Shop and Apple Press printing shop, located between the Trans Canada Highway and Whistler Street, on Oct. 8 as part of neighbourhood painting project. (Robert Barron/Citizen)
Duncan’s Whistler Street sees a fresh lick of paint in opioid battle

Group wants to help clean up community, one street at a time

Dinner shows in the Playbill Dining Room are keeping the Chemainus Theatre going during the pandemic. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Dinner events satisfying for the Chemainus Theatre and patrons

Small groups enjoy entertainment and the food in the Playbill Dining Room

FILE – People wait in line at a COVID-19 testing facility in Burnaby, B.C., on Thursday, August 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
167 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death recorded as B.C. enters 2nd wave

Three new healthcare outbreaks also announced

A glimpse of some of the 480 (approx) cars written off as a result of the acid spills along the Trail highway in 2018. Photo: Trail Times
Kootenay Ford dealer’s frustration grows with ICBC

Trail AM Ford owner Dan Ashman says he just wants fair compensation from ICBC

Mail-in ballot from Elections BC (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
At least 26% of eligible voters have already cast a ballot, Elections BC says

Voters can cast a ballot until 8 p.m PST on Election Day

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A 2018 decision to fly a rainbow flag ended up costing the City of Langley $62,000 in legal fees (Langley Advance Times file)
Human rights win in rainbow flag fight cost B.C. city $62,000

“Lengthy and involved” process provoked by complaint

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a news conference Tuesday October 20, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau and his family decide against trick-or-treating this year due to COVID

Adhering to local health authorities, Trudeau urges Canadians to do their part in following those guidelines

Surrey RCMP cruisers outside a Newton townhouse Tuesday night. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
Toddler in hospital, woman dead following stabbings at Surrey townhouse

Police say two-year-old was among victims found at townhouse complex in the 12700-block of 66 Avenue

A Tim Hortons employee hands out coffee from a drive-through window to a customer in Mississauga, Ont., on March 17, 2020. Tim Hortons is ending the practice of double cupping hot drinks, a move the fast food restaurant says will eliminate hundreds of millions of cups from landfills each year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
The end of double cupping: Tim Hortons ditches two cups in favour of one with sleeve

Most recycling facilities in Canada don’t recycle single use paper coffee cups because of a plastic lining

Most Read