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Rethinking the Dinosaurs--T-Rex With Feathers?

More evidence has been found proving that those sweet little birds, hopping and chirping about in your yard, are related to the dinosaurs of the distant past. A 130-million-year-old fossil of a feathered dinosaur has been discovered by farmers in China. It turns out that the impact that wiped out the dinosaurs didn't kill off all of them-it left a few smaller ones behind that were covered with feathers.

Dr. Mark Norell, of the American Museum of Natural History, said the fossil was about 2 ? feet long, the size of a duck with a long tail. "It shows us that these creatures looked more like weird birds than giant lizards," he said. Despite being small, this dinosaur is related to the mighty Tyrannosaurus rex.

The specimen was found between two slabs of fine-grained rock, which allowed minute details to be preserved, showing that the creature's head and tail were covered with downy fibers, while other parts of the body seemed to have tufts of filaments resembling primitive feathers. The arms also seemed to have branched structures similar to the barbs of modern bird feathers.

These dinosaurs didn't fly-that skill evolved later. Scientists think they used their feathers for warmth. "It's conceivable that smaller dinosaurs like this one and even the young of larger species like Tyrannosaurus rex may have needed feathers to keep warm," says Norell.

Fossils of feathered dinosaurs were first discovered in 1995, but they were only partial remains that did not convince everyone. Ji Qiang, of the Chinese Academy of Geological Science, says, "This is the specimen we've been waiting for. It makes it indisputable that a body covering similar tofeathers was present in non-avian dinosaurs."

These dinosaurs were like birds in many ways. They had swiveling wrists, three forward-pointing toes and even a wishbone.

We call someone a "bird brain" when we mean the person is stupid, but birds are surprisingly intelligent, despite the small size of their brains. Some species of parrot may be the most intelligent species on earth, after humans. If birds have lots of intelligence inside a tiny brain and are descended from dinosaurs, it could mean that dinosaurs were not the dumblizards we think they were. We may be looking at a past world containing huge, intelligent creatures that was tragically ended by an impact from space.

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