A well-preserved fossil of “Microraptor gui” with impressions of feathered wings. Credit: David W. E. Hone, Helmut Tischlinger, Xing Xu, Fucheng Zhang

Perhaps it is time to for us to reimagine the naked giant lizards as seen in Jurassic Park. In recent years many dinosaur fossil findings have indicated the presence of feathers. And according to a new study, most dinosaurs were, in fact, downy and all dinosaurs may have had the potential to develop feathers, or had feathers at a younger age.

This new conclusion is based on some new discoveries made in Siberia that led researchers to reestablish when feathers first evolved and among which dinosaur families it was prevalent. The scientists unearthed some 150 million-year-old fossils from a plant-eating dinosaur named Kulindadromeus zabaikalicus. Before this discovery, feathered dinosaurs had only been found in China and these have all been theropods, a family of upright dinosaurs like the famous Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Velociraptor mongoliensis restored with large wing feathers, as evidenced by fossil quill knobs. Credit: Matt Martyniuk

So apparently there were at least two different dinosaur families living separated from each other, both with feathers. This implies that they probably had a common evolutionary ancestor, further back in time. This ancestor is believed having existed about 220 million years ago, and it too should have had feathers.

The other explanation would be that the theropods and this new Kulindadromeus both developed feathers independently, but then hundreds of other dinosaur species could potentially have taken the same route.

Even though most dinosaurs may have been endowed with feathers, this does not mean that all dinosaurs looked like big birds. As it is now assumed by some scientists that some dinosaurs had feathers throughout their whole life, while others should have lost them at a young age.

The study has been published in the journal Science.

A Jurassic ornithischian dinosaur from Siberia with both feathers and scales