Scientists from University College Cork have discovered that Pterosaurs had four kinds of feathers, shifting the origin of feathers back by 70 million years.
It had long been known that pterosaurs had a furry covering, but these ‘pycnofibres’ were thought to be fundamentally different to feathers of dinosaurs and birds. In fact, the new study published in Nature Ecology and Evolution shows that the pycnofibres are indeed feathers, and are similar to the feathers of dinosaurs, including the ancestors of birds.
Dr McNamara said: “Some critics have suggested that there is only one simple hair-like type of pycnofibre, but our studies show different structures that we also see in dinosaurs – real feathers. We focused on areas where the feathers did not overlap and where we could see their structure more clearly. They even show fine details of pigment granules, which may have given the fluffy feathers a ginger colour.”