Remains of a feathered dinosaur that lived in the Jurassic period have been discovered in the Transbaikal territory, Cenozoic Era laboratory researcher from the Earth Crust Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences Siberian branch Alexander Sizov told reporters on Thursday.
"The research conducted by Russian, Belgian and French paleontologists proved that the bones found a few years ago belonged to a unique herbivorous feathered dinosaur that lived in the Late Jurassic Era, 145-200 million years ago. He was named Kulindadromeus zabaikalicus after Kulinda Gorge in the Transbaikal territory where the remains were discovered," Sizov said.
Kulindadromeus zabaikalicus was a two-legged dinosaur about one meter tall. "He looked like a large turkey with a bald tail," he told reporters.
This is the world's first discovery of an Ornithischian dinosaur, the researcher continued.
"Remains of feathered dinosaurs were found in China 15 years ago but all of them belonged to the Saurischian group and were predators," he said.
The discovery made in the Transbaikal territory leads to a conclusion that Kulindadromeus and its Chinese "cousin" had a common ancestor, who was also feathered, which means that feathered dinosaurs might have appeared on the Earth much earlier than it was believed until recently, Sizov said.
Besides, feathers may be a sign of homeothermy, which has been traditionally deemed a feature of mammals and birds.
"Feathers are a thermal regulation mechanism which is developed only in creatures than can maintain a stable internal body temperature regardless of external influence. It operates on the cell metabolism level in mammals and birds. Probably, dinosaurs had a peculiar kind of homeothermy, which has yet to be discovered," Sizov said.
In his opinion, the common ancestor of Transbaikal and Chinese dinosaurs that lived in the Triassic Period 200-250 million years ago might have been warm-blooded as well.
"Transbaikal geologist, paleontologist Sofia Sinitsa discovered fossils of Kulindadromeus in 2010, in the Kulinda gorge in the Chernyshevsky district of the Transbaikal territory. She sent fossil photographs to our institute in 2012. I saw that the discovery was unique and asked colleagues for cooperation," Sizov said.
Three years of Kulinda expeditions and laboratory studies of the fossils resulted in an article published by the magazine Science, which confirmed the status of the discovery. Yet the work is not over, and paleontologists will go on another expedition to the Transbaikal territory in summer, he said.
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