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Ancient Environments

From Fossil Fragments to Flesh and Feathers
The skeleton is a biography in bone that preserves clues to how a dinosaur lived, its evolutionary history, and where it fits on the family tree of life on earth. Once paleontologists understand the skeleton of a dinosaur, how is the entire animal reconstructed?

Since soft body tissues, such as muscle and skin, are rarely preserved as fossils, scientists usually rely on living animals to predict these aspects of dinosaur anatomy. Dinosaurs are sandwiched between crocodilians and birds on the tree of life, so these two groups are often used to help understand dinosaur soft tissues. If a paa new oviraptorosaurrticular soft tissue structure is present in both crocodilians and birds, there’s a very good chance it was present in dinosaurs, too.

In exceptional cases, soft tissues do fossilize, offering scientists important insight into dinosaur appearance and behavior. Skeletons of the primitive oviraptorosaur Caudipteryx have been preserved with fossilized feather impressions. No feathers were preserved with this new oviraptorosaur. However, because Caudipteryx is closely related to this new discovery, it is reasonable to assume that the latter was feathered as well.

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