T-Rex Relative Had Soft, Downy Feathers

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A new fossil discovery is making scientists rethink the look of some of the world's most well-known creatures. A smaller cousin of the Tyrannosaurus rex was found to be covered with soft, downy feathers. Here's CBS.

"Twenty-nine feet long, that makes it the largest creature, living or extinct, to have a feathery coat."

The fossils were found in northern China, so scientists dubbed the new dino "Yutyrannus huali," a mix of Latin and Mandarin meaning "beautiful feathered tyrant." The Los Angeles Times quotes one of the scientists:

"The ancient feathers are not like those seen today. These plumes weren't used for flight; they were filamentary and lacked a complex structure, giving the dinosaurs who wore them more of a fuzzy appearance. 'I think this animal would have looked quite shaggy in life...'"

Though not as big as the T-rex, the fuzzy dino was almost the size of a bus. But scientists still aren't sure why the Yutyrannus would have feathers at all. The Guardian explains two theories:

"The first is that they acted as a warm, insulating coat. Research has shown that dinosaurs in this period lived in a cooler environment than their later cousins. The other possibility is that the feathers were designed to attract a mate."

Though not a direct ancestor of the T-rex, the new dinosaur was a member of the same family and preceded the king of the dinosaurs by 60 million years. That means it might be time to rethink the look of the most iconic dinosaur ever. National Geographic explains.

"The latest finding increases the likelihood that the 'tyrant lizard king,' T. rex, was also feathered. Scientists have speculated that T. rex juveniles were feathered, because they would have been small enough to require insulation. But it was thought the feathers might have disappeared as the animal grew older and larger."

This all raises the big question — if a T-rex is covered with fuzz like a baby chick, does that make it more or less terrifying? A writer for DVice weighs in.

"Yeah, if there's one thing that utterly fails to make giant carnivorous dinosaurs more badass, it's the fact that they ... were likely covered in soft, downy feathers."

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