April 2015

Did Dinosaurs Have Feathers?

Visit with Paleobiologist Sterling Nesbitt in his lab at Virginia Tech and you get to travel back in time to the Triassic Period.

The entire skeleton is encased in plaster in the field and then brought to the lab intact.
Using tools like a Pin Vise, Sterling Nesbitt begins the laborious task of excavating the skeleton, piece by piece.
Part of jaw bone, encased in rock.
Piece of a jaw bone...
...with an enlarged replica.
Artists depiction of a feathered dinosaur
Paleobiologist Sterling Nesbitt in his lab at Virginia Tech.

On his bench lies a 250 million year old fossil. It's entirely cased in rock-hard mud, and Nesbitt is engaged in the task of carefully trying to omega replica watches for sale extricate the bones. He's got very cool tools: one resembling a dentist's drill, the other a tiny jack hammer, both used to loosen and pry out parts of the skeleton, a delicate piece of bone at a time. It's done with infinite patience and care, knowing that this is one of the most complete early dinosaur skeletons ever found in North America.

Nesbitt: "Most of what the public sees is the pictures of us in the field with a raincloud coming down in the back and big fossils coming out of the rock. And then, they see the replica watches dinosaur skeletons mounted in the museum. But between the field and those skeletons, this is where we spend most of our time."

And what did the dinosaur on Nesbitt's bench look like in its day? Nesbitt: "It walked on two legs. It had pretty short arms, but with big claws, and had a long, pointy snout with lots of recurved, serrated-like steak knife teeth. So, it was a carnivorous dinosaur, or what we call a Theropod, and the other animals that belonged to that group include Velociraptor and T Rex."

"This was such an interesting time in North American history because dinosaurs were the rare animals. They were the cheap breitling replica small animals, dominated in size and diversity by relatives of crocodiles. (The relatives of the crocodiles were) 20 to 25 feet long, and they probably ate early dinosaurs for lunch every day!"

Today's crocodiles and alligators are related to breitling replica watches dinosaurs, but there are even closer living relatives.

Nesbitt: "Birds are actually much closer to dinosaurs than crocodiles! So, we know now that most of the characters that birds have, like feathers and the wishbone, all were inherited by dinosaurs."

"There are many fossils now from China that show that carnivorous dinosaurs and even plant-eating dinosaurs were covered in some kind of feather-like structure. So, feathers evolved outside of birds and were inherited from cartier replica uk their dinosaur ancestors. So, birds are actually all dinosaurs."

So Dinosaurs had feathers?

Nesbitt: "We don’t know exactly if T-Rex had feathers, but we know that very close relatives of Tyrannosaurs Rex did have some kind of feathering coating, and those fossils were found in China."

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