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Feathered Tyrannosaurus uncovered in China

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Chinese and Canadian paleontologists have announced a new find in the world of feathery dinosaurs: a ten-meter, 1½ ton distant relative of Tyrannosaurus Rex called Yutyrannus huali.

The discovery considerably ups the ante for feathered dinosaurs: Yutyrannus is more than 40 times as heavy as the previously-largest known feathered dino, Beipiaosaurus. The team is also excited because they’ve turned up not just one, but three nearly-complete specimens: an adult and two half-ton juveniles.

Not only does this make Yutyrannus the largest feathered dinosaur: it would be so far the largest feathered creature anywhere, anytime on Earth.

Its filament-like feathers covered much of the Yutyrannus, so the find provides “direct evidence” for the presence of “extensively feathered gigantic dinosaurs, and offering new insights into early feather evolution”, the group says in its Nature abstract.

Yutyrannus huali is a blend of Latin and Mandarin and means “beautiful feathered tyrant”.

Xing Xu of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing is quoted in the New York Times as saying it’s “possible that feathers were much more widespread, at least among meat-eating dinosaurs, than most scientists would have guessed even a few years ago.”

The shagginess of such a large critter is surprising, however. Paleontologists have assumed that feathers are confined to smaller animals that have trouble retaining heat, since larger animals find shedding heat to be a bigger problem. ®

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