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T-rex feather theory disputed -- knock me down with a scale

New research seeks to prove once and for all that the Tyrannosaurus rex had scaly skin not feathers, though not all scientists concur.

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Bonnie Burton
Journalist Bonnie Burton writes about movies, TV shows, comics, science and robots. She is the author of the books Live or Die: Survival Hacks, Wizarding World: Movie Magic Amazing Artifacts, The Star Wars Craft Book, Girls Against Girls, Draw Star Wars, Planets in Peril and more! E-mail Bonnie.
Bonnie Burton
2 min read

Here are some of the images and analysis that researchers used in their effort to debunk the idea of a feathered T-rex.

Biology Letters

Just when we were all starting to think that dinosaurs resembled our fine-feathered friends, a new study contends that the Tyrannosaurus rex was covered in scales, not feathers. 

In "Tyrannosauroid integument reveals conflicting patterns of gigantism and feather evolution," published Wednesday in The Royal Society's Biology Letters, new findings cast doubt on a feathered T-rex. 

Researchers analyzed skin impressions from a T-rex skeleton discovered in Montana and "combined that data with new observations of skin from other Late Cretaceous tyrannosaurids, including Daspletosaurus, Tarbosaurus and, for the first time, Albertosaurus and Gorgosaurus." 

After studying the fossilized integument -- or protective outer layer -- of the T-Rex and other members of the same dinosaur family, the researchers determined that "these large-bodied forms possessed scaly reptilian-like skin," according to the team headed by Phil Bell, a paleontologist at the University of New England in Australia.

However, not all scientists are convinced that the study proves anything definitive about T-rex in terms of scales or feathers. 

"I don't think we can assume that T-rex lacked feathers just because some fossil skeletons have skin impressions that are scaly," Steve Brusatte, a paleontologist at the University of Edinburgh, told the BBC.

"It takes inconceivable good luck to preserve feathers in fossils," Brusatte added. "Just because we don't see them doesn't mean they weren't there. So I don't think we need to throw out the image of a big fluffy T-rex quite yet."  

The silliest-looking dinosaurs

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