Hundreds of millions of years ago, Earth was a much different place. Continents were located on entirely different places on the surface of the planet, and Earth was inhabited by unusual creatures. Some of these creatures were Dinosaurs, and some of them had feathers.
Experts have recently found evidence of small carnivorous dinosaurs that lived in the region near the South Pole around 118 million years ago, at the beginning of the Cretaceous period, when Australia was further south and formed a polar landmass within Antarctica within the supercontinent Gondwana.
Experts have reported discovering ten fossilized feathers in an exceptional state of preservation. The discovery marks the first material proof that feathered dinosaurs inhabited the Earth’s poles, reveals National Geographic referring to a study published in Gondwana Research by an international team of scientists.
“Our discovery … shows for the first time that a diverse array of feathered dinosaurs and flight-capable primitive birds inhabited the ancient polar regions.”
With the help of state-of-the-art technology like spectroscopy, researchers were able to obtain important details about the creatures they were studying, helping experts obtain important data about their anatomy, and in some cases even their color.
But it was the simplest “fluffy” feathers, those located beneath the creature’s the thickest plumage, that attracted special interest.
Although previous expeditions have found bones of dinosaur-era birds in polar regions, never have experts previously discovered fossilized feathers.
A scientific expedition discovered an extinct type of penguin in Peru, with preserved plumage. However, this creature dates back to around 36 million years ago and lived on a landmass that was located farther north.
Therefore, discovering feathers dating back to the Cretaceous period in Australia is a viral discovery that may offer important clues about animals that inhabited these ancient continents millions of years ago.
The fossilized feathers reveal important clues about the creatures; the feathers will help scientists understand the insulation of the animals that allowed them to survive extremely cold winter months.
The researchers have further explained that it makes sense that these types of primitive feathers helped dinosaurs and early, primitive birds warm during the Cretaceous period.
“It is spectacular to see data from rocks this old and this far south,” revealed Ryan McKellar, an expert on fossil feathers.
“The report provides a really important snapshot of early Cretaceous polar plumage.”
The Dino feathers were discovered by experts at a site called Koonwarra, located around 144 kilometers (90 miles) from Melbourne.
The recently found feathers are currently not associated with a distinct species of dinosaur or bird bones. Researchers revealed that the feathers were most likely lost during either molting or preening and may have drifted on the surface of an ancient lake.
There, the features sank to the bottom and were–luckily for experts–preserved in the fine mud.
The fossilized feathers aren’t big. In fact, the experts revealed that most of them are an inch or less in length. As to their owner, scientists say the feathers most like belonged to an extinct group of ancient birds that were extremely diverse during the Cretaceous period called enantiornithines.
From the diverse collection of feathers, the scientist revealed the one, in particular, was surprising.
Of all the feathers, all but one could definitely not have sustained flight, proving experts with a tell-tale sign that it may have belonged to a ground-dwelling dinosaur.
The protofeather “is entirely consistent with some of the tufted [dinosaur] protofeathers identified from the Early Cretaceous rocks of China, and from Canadian Cretaceous amber,” McKellar revealed.
The protofeather may have belonged to a relatively small type of dinosaur similar dromaeosaur, a speedy carnivorous group of dinosaurs that include the Velociraptor.