One of the most recent ideas about dinosaurs that the paleontological community has presented was the idea that dinosaurs possessed feathers. The idea basically stated that since birds were the proven descendants of dinosaurs, maybe some of the bird's features were inherited from dinosaurs. While some people have expressed dislike about the idea of dinosaurs with feathers, the idea is actually quite fascinating. Archaeopteryx, a fossil discovered in 1861, provided the idea that dinosaurs at some point acquired the ability to grow feathers. Increased findings of other dinosaurs other than Archaeopteryx possessing feathers explained some plausible reasons why feathers were seen as a positive trait to be passed down through later generations until the present day. And even if people do think that dinosaurs with feathers was ridiculous, then that means that all of the other evolutionary aspects of Prehistoric times was ridiculous. Which it was. But since this was the time where truly complex organism were beginning to grow in size and number, developing feathers seems like a fairly minor change in a dinosaur's anatomy. So even if feathers on dinosaurs does make most of the more ferocious dinosaurs look somewhat strange, that should not diminish the fact that said dinosaur was most likely an apex predator.
The interesting thing about Archaeopteryx was that it was considered a transition fossil. What a transition fossil basically represented was the link that connected an ancestor species with a descendant species. In this case Archaeopteryx connected both the dinosaurs with the birds. A complete specimen was discovered in 1861 by Erich Hermann von Meyer near Langenaltheim, Germany. After being sold to the Natural History Museum in London it was referred to as London Specimen. The fossil showed that Archaeopteryx had more in common with dinosaurs rather than birds. All it had in common with birds was its small size and its possession of feathers. As a dinosaur it had anatomical similarities to bipedal predators. With the discovery of this feathered dinosaur, paleontologists could make a few observations. The feathers on Archaeopteryx were most likely used for thermoregulation or the ability to maintain a stable internal body temperature regardless of external influence. Being one of the earlier examples of a transition fossil that linked dinosaurs and birds, Archaeopteryx had what was probably an earlier version of flying. Which was either climbing up a tree to gain the aerial lift to gain a substantial gliding distance or eventually evolving a crude version of flying by running on the ground. While people may never find out everything about Archaeopteryx, the fact that it was around during the late Jurassic Period also meant that feathers started appearing around that time as well.
More Feathered Dinosaurs
With the discovery of Archaropteryx, soon more feathered dinosaurs began appearing. One of the more notable aspects to these dinosaurs was that they were primarily two-legged. Referred to as theropods, these were mostly the predatory dinosaurs of the prehistoric times, like the Velociraptor or the Tyrannosaurus-Rex. By modern times scientists have made discoveries that confirmed that some point certain species of dinosaurs possessed feathers, or hairs and bristles that would eventually become feathers. When the first primitive feathers appeared on dinosaurs their purpose expanded to other biological needs besides flight. Some of the reasons as to why dinosaurs evolved feathers involved feathers being a positive trait that had to be passed down to later generations. Evolutionarily speaking, one of the benefits that feathers gave dinosaurs was warmth for their eggs. With the increased warmth and safety that feathers provided for the eggs, baby dinosaurs could hatch safely. After the meteor that made the dinosaur extinct in the Cretaceous period, some dinosaurs had to survive by adapting further. By the time a majority of the bigger dinosaurs died out, some of the smaller carnivorous dinosaurs, who coincidentally had feathers, had the opportunity to survive the devastation.
Eventually the smaller dinosaurs with feathers acquired abilities that made them outlive some of the larger specimens. Some of these skills included climbing trees, glide in the air, and eventually flying through the air. Ultimately these added skill allowed small, feathered dinosaurs to survive and eventually evolve into birds.
While the idea of dinosaurs with feathers has been scientifically proven, there are people who protest the possible changes that feathers could have in a dinosaur's depiction. To be fair, some depictions of feathered dinosaurs are somewhat surreal. Especially if the depiction made the dinosaur filled with feathers. Since feathers in prehistoric times were unlike feathers in modern times, that means that the feathers on dinosaurs were not place on the body like the feathers on a bird. For example, a Tyrannosaurus-Rex with feathers would not have feathers covering all of its body; most likely the feathers covered some of its body.
And while most feathered dinosaurs were shown to be silly in movies, real-life dinosaurs must were weird. At least during their time. Since they were some of the earliest forms of complex organisms that existed at the time, evolution for them was both strange and random. Just in the Cretaceous period you had dinosaurs with horns poking out of random areas of their faces, dinosaurs with strange looking heads, Spinosaurus had a giant sail on its back, and Tyrannosaurus-Rex had ridiculously short arms. And some dinosaurs in the Triassic and Jurassic period had even weirder features on their bodies. So even if the idea of dinosaurs with feathers may seem strange to people, some of the dinosaurs that have been discovered are actually weirder than a feathered dinosaur.
Dinosaurs with feathers may seem weird, but dinosaurs in and of themselves are weird as well. There were archaeological findings that they eventually developed feathers, which was shown through Archaeopteryx. Feathers were an evolutionary trait that benefited most dinosaurs, and when combined with smaller species eventually resulted in the existence of birds as people know of. And while the idea of feathered dinosaurs seems weird, it was an evolutionary trait that existed way back when complex organisms were developing weird evolutions and hopefully surviving to pass down those traits.
Ann Carr from SW England on February 22, 2015:
Fascinating hub. I like the idea of feathered dinosaurs, especially for regulating body temperature and protecting their young.
Jake Michael Peralta (author) from Indio, California on February 17, 2015:
Brace yourselves for new discoveries about dinosaurs. That's my advise.
peachy from Home Sweet Home on February 17, 2015:
I thought there is only one type of lizard bird, now there is more
John Hansen from Gondwana Land on February 16, 2015:
Hi Jake. I found this hub extremely interesting and well written (a couple of typos but nothing major). I have always been interested in dinosaurs and prehistoric life though I admit finding out that many of the dinosaurs may have had feathers was rather off putting. Of course it does make perfect sense that at least some of them did developed feathers. Anyway, voted up and shared.