for National Geographic News
Bumps on the forearm bone of a velociraptor fossil suggest the predators were adorned with fluffy feathers, a new study says.
The dinosaurs, portrayed as horse-size in the movie Jurassic Park, were actually not much bigger than a modern-day turkey.
"If people saw this animal now, they would think it's a really strange-looking bird," said study lead author Alan Turner, a paleontologist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York and a graduate student at Columbia University.
"Instead of the more reptilian-looking versions that Steven Spielberg used in Jurassic Park, these would be much fluffier, much [more] feathery animals with what looks like wings on their forearms."
Turner and colleagues examined a velociraptor fossil in Mongolia's Gobi Desert and found the forearm had regularly spaced bumps that would have held the quills of secondary feathers.
The velociraptor fossil was found in 1998, buried in 80-million-year-old sandstone deposits. (Related news: "Massive Birdlike Dinosaur Unearthed in China" [June 13, 2007].)
The fossil shows that the animal was probably about 5 feet (1.5 meters) long and weighed about 30 pounds (15 kilograms).
When Turner studied one of the forearm bones of the specimen, he immediately noticed bumps, known as quill knobs, running along the bone's backside.
In many modern birds, raised knobs along the forearm bone are where secondary feathers attach to the bone.
"Once you examine these knobs, you can kind of rule out that it's some sort of preservational artifact"—in other words, the knobs could not be explained by changes to the fossil during its millions of years underground.
The Mongolian fossil had six bumps about 0.2 inch (0.4 centimeter) apart.
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