Temporal range: Lower Cretaceous
Ji & Ji, 1996
It is the first one found with the fossilized impressions of furry down or filamentous feathers. Overall, the filaments resemble the down-like feathers of some modern flightless birds.
Sinosauropteryx prima is among the smallest known non-avian theropods, with the type specimen (a nearly mature individual) measuring only 68 cm (27 in) in length, including a very long tail.
Paleontologist Nick Longrich suggested that these specimens preserve remnants of the original colour pattern the animal would have had in life. He argued that the dark, banded stains on the tail were too evenly spaced to have been caused by random separation of the fossil slabs, and that they represent fossilized pigments present in the feathers.
The presence of dark feathers along only the top of the body may also reflect the colour pattern in life, indicating that Sinosauropteryx prima was countershaded with dark colour on its back and lighter colour on its underside, with bands or stripes on the tail for camouflage. The main colour turned out later to be ginger.
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- Longrich, N. 2002. Systematics of Sinosauropteryx. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 22(3): 80A.
- BBC News