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Hard evidence that Giant Tyrannosaurs were Cuter than you ever thought possible
Annalee Newitz   Apr 5, 2012   io9  

Imagine a tyrannosaur weighing one and a half tons, completely covered in soft, downy plumage. Even its tail is fluffy with feathers. Though we’ve known for a while that many dinosaurs were covered in feathers, a group of Chinese researchers have now provided direct evidence that gigantic, deadly tyrannosaurs might have looked a bit like wuffly birds.

Three nearly complete, well-preserved fossils give us a glimpse of tyrannosaurs the way we’ve never seen them before. The fossils were found in the Liaoning Province in China, in the “Yixian formation,” a package of rocks that is known to date to the early Cretaceous period. Described today in Nature magazine, the creatures are in the subgroup Tyrannosauroidea, which is part of the Therapod family that includes both the iconic T. Rex as well as winged dinosaurs who eventually evolved into today’s birds. The animals that paleontologist Xing Xu and colleagues dubbed Yutyrannus huali would have been quite large for tyrannosaurs (the largest, an adult, likely weighed almost 1.5 tons) and were probably the apex predators of their region.

 


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Annalee Newitz is an American journalist who covers the cultural impact of science and technology. She is the editor-in-chief of io9, which named in 2010 as one of the top 30 science blogs by The Times. Her work has been published in Popular Science, Wired, Salon.com, New Scientist, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, and AlterNet, and she is a regular lecturer at colleges and conferences.



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