A new scientific study has revealed that dinosaur bones were made up mostly of feathers.
The team, led by Professor Stephen G. Meehan of the University of Texas at Austin, used CT scans to reconstruct the skeletons of a group of dinosaurs called the “Parallaxosauridae”, which lived during the Late Cretaceous period (about 160 million years ago).
They found that feathers were the most common form of material used in the bodies of these dinosaurs, which are considered a close relative of modern birds.
But while feathers were present on the bones of some of the dinosaurs, they were only present on one dinosaur, a species called the Parallaxosaurus.
“In many cases, feathers were used for structural purposes, such as for decorative ornamentation or as a secondary or secondary attachment to the bone,” the researchers write in their study.
“This makes it possible to infer that feathers played a central role in the preservation of these dinosaur bodies.”
The study has been published in the journal Nature Communications.
The study has also been featured in the BBC Science program, The Archaeological Mysteries of Life on Earth, and in the New Scientist magazine.
It was the first time that researchers had found that a fossilised dinosaur was made entirely of feathers, says Gabor Mate, a paleontologist at the University College London.
However, other fossils show feathers on other dinosaurs.
In 2010, paleontologists at the Natural History Museum in London and the University at Leiden in the Netherlands showed that feathers could be preserved on a skull of a Jurassic dinosaur called the Gobiosaurus.
In 2011, scientists found that bones of an extinct species of dinosaurs could be made from feathers, too.
And in 2011, the University Museum of Natural History in Berlin also reported on feathers on a fossil dinosaur, suggesting that feathers had been used for a while in the fossil record.
Some of the feathers on dinosaur bones are very similar to the ones found on birds, so it was thought that feathers might have been used to preserve the shape of dinosaurs’ bodies, says Mate.
This means that feathers may have been more than just decorative, he says.
Researchers have long thought that dinosaurs were made from bones.
They’ve been working on the theory that dinosaurs’ bones were more like those of birds than mammals, which means they were made of a much more complex material.
Meehan says that feathers are more flexible than bones and could have been a more important structural material.
But the feathers that are preserved on dinosaurs could have served a different function.
A lot of the bones are made of bone, so they would have been able to withstand bending and tearing.
So it could be that the dinosaurs’ feathers were made for some sort of special purpose, rather than just decoration, he suggests.
That purpose could have included something like helping to protect the dinosaurs from predators, and the team think that feathers would have also served as a way of protecting them from predators in the water.
While the researchers say that feathers can’t be the main building block of dinosaurs’, they have found other evidence to suggest that feathers, like feathers on modern birds, may have had important uses.
Paleontologists have found that feather fragments were also found in the bones and fossils of many of the same dinosaurs that had feathers.
This suggests that the fossilised feathers could have had a similar function to feathers on dinosaurs, says Meehans team.
Dr Sarah R. Stokes, a palaeontologist from the University School of Biological Sciences at Sydney, says that while the study of feathers is important, it doesn’t prove that feathers did indeed play a central part in the life of dinosaurs.
“The dinosaurs are a very complicated group of animals that are so far from being well understood,” she says.
“It’s hard to know what they would’ve looked like had they been made out of feathers.”
She adds that the discovery of feathers in dinosaur fossils also suggests that they weren’t the most commonly used material in the dinosaurs’, but the team’s findings are still important, because they show that the animals were making a lot of use of feathers and that this could have helped them survive.