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Planet Earth

Did All Dinosaurs Have Feathers?

We know that birds and dinosaurs are related. But whether some or all dinosaurs sported feathers is where things get fuzzy.

By Riley BlackSep 26, 2023 9:00 AM
Artist's rendering of a short-tailed pterosaur with feathers
An artist’s rendering of a short-tailed pterosaur — feathers and all. (Credit: Yuan Zhang/Nature Ecology & Evolution)


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Feathered dinosaurs are all around us today. Birds — from pigeons to penguins — are dinosaurs. But what about our Mesozoic favorites? 

Some dinosaur groups haven’t been found with protofeathers yet. The long-necked sauropods and shovel-beaked hadrosaurs don’t seem to show evidence of fluff at the present time. But based upon the spread of fuzzy body coverings among other dinosaurs, it may be that experts just haven’t found the right fossils.

Did Dinosaurs Have Feathers?

Dinosaurs closely related to birds were feathered. But as paleontologists have dug into the Mesozoic, they've kept finding dinosaurs with protofeathers in different places of the family tree.

And among dinosaurs, protofeathers have not only been found among theropod dinosaurs closely related to birds, but also all the way on the other side of the family tree, among a group called ornithischians. Either dinosaurs inherited protofeathers from their direct ancestors, or fuzzy body coverings evolved multiple times.

Read more: Take an In-Depth Look at What Dinosaurs Really Looked Like

5. Dinosaurs With Feathers

As it stands now, fuzzy, featherlike body coverings have been found among pterosaurs — flying reptiles related to dinosaurs — as well as many forms of dinosaurs. This suggests that some kind of wispy body covering might have been present in ancestral dinosaurs.

1. Sinosauropteryx

Sinosauropteryx was a small meat-eating dinosaur from the Early Cretaceous period. It was one of the first feathered dinosaurs to be discovered, and its fossils showed preserved feather-like structures.

2. Archaeopteryx

Often considered the first bird, Archaeopteryx lived during the Late Jurassic period, around 150 million years ago. It had feathers and a combination of reptilian and avian features, such as teeth and claws on its wings.

Read More: What Makes Archaeopteryx Fossils the Bizarre Bridge Between Dinos and Birds?

3. Microraptor

Microraptor was a small, feathered dinosaur from the Early Cretaceous period, approximately 120 million years ago. It had feathers on its arms and legs, suggesting that it could glide or even fly to some extent.

4. Velociraptor

Made famous by movies like Jurassic Park, Velociraptor had feathers covering its body. It was a carnivorous dinosaur from the Late Cretaceous period and is closely related to birds.

5. Yutyrannus

Yutyrannus was a larger Tyrannosauroidea from the Early Cretaceous, about 125 million years ago. It was one of the largest known feathered dinosaurs, which suggests that even some of the largest predatory dinosaurs had feathers.

It’s conceivable that almost any dinosaur you can think of had protofeathers to one degree or another, just how elephants and hippos still have some hairs despite looking bald from a distance. Dinosaurs were fuzzier than we ever expected.

Read More: How Big Was Quetzalcoatlus and Other Giant Pterosaurs?

This article was originally published on March 11, 2020 and has since been updated with information on individual dinosaurs.

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