Could the giants of the Jurassic have sported feathered frills and colored plumage? Modern paleontology investigates this wild theory.
The evolutionary connection between birds and dinosaurs has been a fierce debate among scientists for generations. Thomas Huxley first suggested the species shared a common ancestry in 1856 when he compared the fossils of Compsognathus and the first bird, Archaeopteryx lithographica. In 1876, he created a feathered model of Compsognathus and presented it at a lecture in New York City. But the preeminent dinosaur expert, Richards Owen, rejected the theory, and it laid dormant for decades.
It was not until 1969 that John Ostrom revived the subject. His work drew new parallels between birds and dinosaurs, such as similarities in their necks, pelvises and wrists. Quill knobs (feather access points) under the forearms of some dinosaurs as well integumentary structures in the dorsal spines of reptiles and fish gave further support to the theory.
In 2016, the Museum of Natural History in New York showcased a new exhibit called Dinosaurs Among Us, which featured feathered dinosaurs beside their winged counterparts – birds.
As this new vision of dinosaurs emerges, artists and illustrators are quick to capture it in striking imagery. Explore more in the links below.