Well-Preserved Fossil of Ostrich-like Ornithomimus Dinosaur Discovered

Posted on October 28, 2015

Ornithomimus dinosaur drawing

A well-preserved fossil of an ostrich-like Ornithomimus dinosaur has been discovered. The fossil has preserved tail plumage and soft tissue. The discovery is one of only three feathered Ornithomimus specimens in the world. The fossil was discovered by undergraduate University of Alberta paleontology student Aaron van der Reest.

Van der Reest says this is the first report of such preserved skin forming a web from the femoral shaft to the abdomen. It has not been seen before in non-avian dinosaurs.

Van der Reest says, "We now know what the plumage looked like on the tail, and that from the mid-femur down, it had bare skin. Ostriches use bare skin to thermoregulate. 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 preserved feathered are crushed from sediment compaction but scanning electron microscopy revealed a three-dimensional keratin structure to the feathers on the tail and body. The fossil was discovered in the Upper Cretaceous Dinosaur Park Formation in Alberta in 2009.

A research paper on the discovery was published here in the journal, Cretaceous Research.

Photo: Julius Csotonyi/University of Alberta