Another quick post, but one that is well worth it I feel just to have it out on the internet. I have noticed that an awful lot of websites, articles and the rest love their feathered dinosaurs and go to no end to report them, review them or mention them. Reconstructions of feathered tyrannosaurs and oviraptorsaurs abound before we even start on the dromaeosaurs. They get everywhere in short, and while the fossil evidence for feathered dinosaurs is unambiguous and definitive, it is surprising just how few examples there are. Of course it is reasonable to reconstruct a great many taxa with feathers, but in terms of actual species preserved with feathers, the numbers are small. Very small in fact – less than twenty.
Here I am deliberately including the widest definition of ‘feathers’ and include every possible definition of a feather, protofeather, feather-like filament or whatever you want to call it. I am only including those species preserved with the feathers themselves and not those with things like quill knobs (Velociraptor). I’ll stop at Archaeopteryx, and not go into the birds at all, and I am taking a fairly conservative approach to taxonomy, though as it happens there are only a couple of taxa that you might want to split from those listed here. There are also a couple of unpublished species I happen to know about, but for obvious reasons cannot divulge the details.
So, in no particular order, here they are:
When you compare this to the almost endless round of feathered dinosaurs stuff on the internet, it really puts it into perspective. When you then add to that the fact that almost all of them come from the Jehol biota of China and two more are from the Solnhofen and suddenly the list looks pretty short in terms of diversity. The much celebrated feathers of tyrannosaurs are limited to a single taxon (Dilong) and just two species on a single genus for the oviraptorsaurs. Sure feathers rarely preserve and we are in many ways lucky to have any, but I suspect this list is far shorter than many people might have thought. One thing that is worth mentioning though is that for several of these there are many specimens (Microraptor runs to about a dozen between the two described species and there are at least six feathered Caudipteryx specimens). Given the gap between the discovery of Archaeopteryx and the rest and then the huge proliferation in recent years, we can certainly expect more in the future.
A quick note, the image is sourced from wiki and not an original of mine for once. And not an original specimen either, it looks like a cast to me. Oh, and I wrote this thing about 3 weeks ago, now just seemed a good time to post it, with so many people coming over here for the Epidexipteryx post.