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Yet no one had ever discovered the most compelling evidence-a feathered dinosaur.
The slim creature, which the paleontologists dubbed Microraptor gui, measured nearly 1 meter from its snout to the tip of its feathered tail and lived about 130 million years ago in what is now northeastern China.
A detailed x-ray scan of the fossilized brain-case of an Archaeopteryx shows that several features of the ancient feathered creature's brain and inner ear were highly developed and similar to those of modern birds.
Four years ago, paleontologists described a species of feathered dinosaur from China that they named Microraptor gui (SN: 1/25/03,p.
Scientists can now reconstruct the colors that some ancient feathered dinosaurs and birds may have sported, thanks to two new analyses that have identified the remains of tiny pigment-bearing structures in the feathers and filaments that covered the creatures' bodies.
Didi Jewellery specialises in gorgeous feathered jewellery, and all of it is handmade and unique.
The fully feathered fossil of Anchiornis huxleyi, for example, is 155 million years old, yet Sawyer's results point to the family of feather beta-keratin just beginning to develop its distinguishing characteristics about 143 million years ago.
Another group of researchers said Longisquama's feathers are real, and suggest that birds evolved from reptiles like this rather than from feathered dinosaurs.
Until now feathered dinosaur skeletons had been recovered almost exclusively from fine-grained rocks in China and Germany.
Sid Perkins' article "Feathered dinosaurs, bold and in living color" (SN: 2/27/10, p.
Feathered dinosaurs, like modern birds, may have molted as they grew, says Xing Xu of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing.
"I think it's quite possible that people have not really focused on finding feathered dinosaurs in river deposits because they were expecting to be preserved in the quiet water and muddy conditions seen in lake deposits.