<p class="western">In 1996 the scientific world was stunned to learn that a fossil dinosaur with feathers had been found in China. The animal, shown in a 1990s artist's reconstruction, was <em>Sinosauropteryx</em>, a turkey-size meat-eating dinosaur distantly related to <em><a id="fshk" title="Tyrannosaurus rex" href="http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/prehistoric/tyrannosaurus-rex.html">Tyrannosaurus rex</a></em>.</p><p class="western">To many scientists, the surprise was not so much that a dinosaur had feathers, because many paleontologists agreed that <a href="http://science.nationalgeographic.com/science/prehistoric-world/">dinosaurs</a> were the ancestors of <a id="l79x" title="birds" href="http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/birds/">birds</a>, but that feathers had been preserved in a dinosaur fossil for over 125 million years.</p><p class="western">Since then, thousands of exquisitely preserved feathered dinosaurs and birds have come out of the 131- to 120-million-year-old Jehol Group sediments found in northeast China (<a href="http://science.nationalgeographic.com/science/prehistoric-world/prehistoric-time-line.html">prehistoric time line</a>).</p><p class="western">A report released January 27, 2010, describes how <a id="ao11" title="pigment-carrying structures called melanosomes are also preserved in the fossilized feathers" href="http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2010/01/100127-dinosaur-feathers-colors-nature/">pigment-carrying structures called melanosomes are also preserved in the fossilized feathers</a> from <a id="q-gl" title="China" href="http://news.nationalgeographic.com/travel/countries/china-guide/">China</a>. Since melanosomes are associated with pigment and color, researchers can now, for the first time, begin to provide an accurate view of the world of prehistoric color.</p><p class="western">(<a id="z88p" title="See what scientists now think Sinosauropteryx really looked like." href="http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2010/01/photogalleries/100127-new-dinosaur-colors-feathers-nature-pictures/#025714_600x450.jpg">See what scientists now think Sinosauropteryx really looked like.</a>)</p><p><em>–Chris Sloan, </em><a id="go21" title="National Geographic magazine" href="http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/">National Geographic magazine</a><em> paleontology editor</em></p>

First Dinosaur Found With Feathers

In 1996 the scientific world was stunned to learn that a fossil dinosaur with feathers had been found in China. The animal, shown in a 1990s artist's reconstruction, was Sinosauropteryx, a turkey-size meat-eating dinosaur distantly related to Tyrannosaurus rex.

To many scientists, the surprise was not so much that a dinosaur had feathers, because many paleontologists agreed that dinosaurs were the ancestors of birds, but that feathers had been preserved in a dinosaur fossil for over 125 million years.

Since then, thousands of exquisitely preserved feathered dinosaurs and birds have come out of the 131- to 120-million-year-old Jehol Group sediments found in northeast China (prehistoric time line).

A report released January 27, 2010, describes how pigment-carrying structures called melanosomes are also preserved in the fossilized feathers from China. Since melanosomes are associated with pigment and color, researchers can now, for the first time, begin to provide an accurate view of the world of prehistoric color.

(See what scientists now think Sinosauropteryx really looked like.)

–Chris Sloan, National Geographic magazine paleontology editor

Photograph by O. Louis Mazzatenta, National Geographic Stock

Pictures: Evolution of Dinosaur Art

See how science has changed the art of dinosaur illustration—from the addition of feathers to, as of today, the discovery of dinosaur pigment.

Read This Next

Soils found in Antarctica seem to contain no life

The complex situation for immunocompromised people and COVID-19 vaccines

Champions of wildlife and wild places win prestigious awards

Go Further

Subscriber Exclusive Content

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet