This dinosaur may have shed its feathers like modern songbirds

Thursday, July 16, 2020 - 12:40 in Paleontology & Archaeology

A patch of three oddly short feathers spotted among the fossilized plumage of Microraptor may be the first evidence of a nonbird dinosaur molting. The fossil find further suggests that Microraptor, which lived 120 million years ago, may have shed only a few feathers at a time — just like modern songbirds, researchers report July 15 in Current Biology. Such “sequential molting,” they say, suggests that Microraptor was an adept and frequent flyer. Unlike many aquatic birds, modern songbirds lose only a few feathers at a time, enabling them to stay aloft year-round for foraging or to escape predators. Microraptor’s shorter feathers appear in just a small patch on one of the dinosaur’s four wings — suggesting that the dinosaur molted sequentially, too, bird ecologist Yosef Kiat at the University of Haifa in Israel and colleagues report. All modern, adult birds molt at least once a year to replace old, damaged feathers,...

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