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University of Alberta researcher finds feathers on Ornithomimus dinosaur

U of A undergraduate student Aaron van der Reest is still flying high over his discovery. He discovered an Ornithomimus dinosaur. What makes it really special is that the preserved tail feathers and soft tissue shrink the link between dinosaurs and birds.

Prehistoric plumage links specimen to modern day ostrich

Artist Julius Csotonyi shows what Ornithomimus may have looked like. Feathered dinosaurs may eventually prove dinosaurs are more closely related to birds than reptiles. (University of Alberta )

Aaron van der Reest, a University of Alberta researcher, is still flying high over his discovery.

Van der Reest recently found out an unearthed Ornithomimus dinosaur has extremely well-preserved plumage, a big deal considering only three of the feathered variety have been found in North America.

What makes it equally impressive is the tail feathers and soft tissue shrink the link between dinosaurs and modern birds.

The finding may eventually help prove that those who think dinosaurs are only linked to reptiles may have their heads in the sand.

"It's pretty remarkable," van der Reest said. "I don't know if I've stopped smiling since.

"We now know what the plumage looked like on the tail, and that from the mid-femur down, it had bare skin."

Van der Reest said the specimen resembles a bird with which most of us are familiar.

"If you picture an ostrich, it would have looked quite similar to that — long legs, long neck, small head," van der Reest said.

"Because the plumage on this specimen is virtually identical to that of an ostrich, we can infer that Ornithomimus was likely doing the same thing, using feathered regions on their body to maintain body temperature. It would've looked a lot like an ostrich."

The discovery was made in the Upper Cretaceous Dinosaur Park Formation in Alberta in 2009. 

Van der Reest said it may impact the excavation process.

"If we can better understand the processes behind the preservation of the feathers in this specimen, we can better predict whether other fossilized animals in the ground will have soft tissues, feathers or skin impressions preserved."

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