Tyrannosaurus rex Had Scaly Skin

A team of international scientists including Professor Phil Currie (University of Alberta) and Robert T. Bakker (Houston Museum of Natural Science), have concluded that Tyrannosaurus rex was probably not covered in a coat of shaggy feathers.  A study of T. rex skin impression fossils found in association with a 30% complete skeleton of the “Tyrant Lizard King” in Montana indicate that this iconic carnivorous dinosaur had scaly skin like a modern-day reptile.

Tyrannosaurus rex Not Covered in Feathers

T. rex with a scaly skin.

Tyrannosaurus rex depicted with a scaly skin.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Dinosaurs with Feathers

A number of dinosaurs are known to have sported feathers and some did have shaggy, feathery coats.  A member of the same clade of dinosaurs to which T. rex belongs, a big, meat-eating dinosaur called Yutyrannus (Y. huali), from China did have a feathery coat.  Based on this evidence a number of scientists proposed that dinosaurs such as Tyrannosaurus rex and its near relatives were also feathered.

A Feathered T. rex Dinosaur Model

A feathered T. rex dinosaur model.

A model of a feathered T. rex.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Extension Ideas

How do scientists know that some dinosaurs had feathers?   Link to fossil evidence and what fossils can tell us about life in the past.  This article might prove helpful as it provides pictures of feathered dinosaur fossils and a reconstruction of a feathered dinosaur: New Feathered Dinosaur from China with Pennaceous Feathers.

Why might some dinosaurs have had feathers?  There are a number of potential answers, for example, some dinosaurs may have had dense coats of feathers to help keep them warm, (insulation), in the same way that many birds and mammals have insulating feathers and fur today.  Can the class provide of examples from the natural world?  Feathers might also have been used for display or for visual communication.  Can the children provide examples of birds that use feathers not just for flying but for display – peacocks, birds of paradise etc.

One of the T. rex Skin Impression Fossils 

T. rex skin impression fossil.

Skin impression fossil from the neck of a T. rex.

Picture Credit: Biology Letters

For more information about the recent research into the Montana T. rex specimen with its skin impressions: Has T. rex Shed Its Feathers?

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