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A polar dinosaur feather assemblage from Australia
University of Pavol Jozef Šafárik, Slovakia.
Melbourne Museum, Australia.
Lund University, Sweden.
RISE - Research Institutes of Sweden, Bioscience and Materials, Chemistry and Materials.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-2696-7215
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2020 (English)In: Gondwana Research, ISSN 1342-937X, E-ISSN 1878-0571, Vol. 80Article in journal (Refereed) Epub ahead of print
Abstract [en]

Exceptionally preserved Mesozoic feathered dinosaur fossils (including birds) are famous, but recognized from only very few localities worldwide, and are especially rare in the Southern Hemisphere. Here we report an assemblage of non-avian and avian dinosaur feathers from an Early Cretaceous polar (around 70°S) environment in what is now southeastern Australia. The recovered remains incorporate small (10–30 mm long) basal paravian-like tufted body feathers, open-vaned contour feathers, and asymmetrical bird-like wing feathers that possess high-angled barbs with possible remnants of barbicels — amongst the geologically oldest observed to date. Such morphological diversity augments scant skeletal evidence for a range of insulated non-avian theropods and birds inhabiting extreme southern high-latitude settings during the Mesozoic. Although some of these fossil feathers exhibit what may be residual patterning, most are uniformly toned and preserve rod-shaped microbodies, as well as densely-packed microbody imprints on the barbules that are structurally consistent with eumelanosomes. Geochemical analysis detected no identifiable residual biomolecules, which we suspect were lost via hydrolysis and oxidization during diagenesis and weathering. Nevertheless, an originally dark pigmentation can be reasonably inferred from these melanic traces, which like the coloured feathers of modern birds, might have facilitated crypsis, visual communication and/or thermoregulation in a cold polar habitat. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier Inc. , 2020. Vol. 80
Keywords [en]
Aves, Early Cretaceous, Melanosomes, Mesozoic birds, Paraves
National Category
Natural Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:ri:diva-42081DOI: 10.1016/j.gr.2019.10.004Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-85075659002OAI: oai:DiVA.org:ri-42081DiVA, id: diva2:1379201
Note

Funding details: Vetenskapsrådet, VR, 642-2014-3773; Funding details: Agentúra na Podporu Výskumu a Vývoja, APVV, APVV-18-0251; Funding details: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO, 609, 608; Funding details: 1/0853/17; Funding text 1: We thank Tim Ziegler (NMV) for assistance with information and photography, and VicRoads for facilitating on-going field surveys. Peter Trusler (Melbourne) generously contributed his copyrighted artwork commissioned for the DinoQuest exhibition managed by the Singapore Science Centre. Our manuscript benefited from constructive comments made by the Editor and reviewers. Financial support was provided by UNESCO IGCP Projects 608 and 609 involving P.V.-R. and T.H.R., the Slovak Research and Development Agency ( APVV-18-0251 ) and Scientific Grant Agency VEGA of the Slovak Ministry of the Education, Science, Research and Sport and Slovak Academy of Sciences ( 1/0853/17 ) to M.K., and a Swedish Research Council grant ( 642-2014-3773 ) to J.L. Appendix A

Available from: 2019-12-16 Created: 2019-12-16 Last updated: 2019-12-16Bibliographically approved

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