No Feathers in the Best T-Rex Reconstruction


The first difference that many will notice about our new T. rex is that it lacks feathers. In 2017, Phil Bell & colleagues published a study on the skin covering of Tyrannosaurus rex . In this paper, Bell et al. presented evidence against the theory that all tyrannosauroids were feathered, a notion that us and many others had followed.

The paper had some fairly convincing evidence; most notably, the paper offered published skin impressions of Tyrannosaurus rex for the first time. These impressions came from multiple areas of the body (see graphic), all of which showed very small reticulate scales. This was in contrast to the giant tyrannosauroid Yutyrannus , described in 2012, which preserved only feathers.

It seems that giants, apparently, are hairless and featherless,

In addition to the physical evidence for reticulate scales, there is also a biomechanical argument to be made. One of our major consultants on this reconstruction, Scott Hartman, has been conducting physiological modelling on early dinosaurs and other reptiles, including quantifying thermal constraints (Hartman 2015, Hartman et al. 2016). He is not working specifically on T. rex , but his research has implications for its potential feathering. According to his research, depending on ambient temperature, animals stop receiving any benefit from dermal insulation at somewhere between 1 and 3 tonnes. Due to the costs of producing such integument, this may cause these traits to be selected against, as has occurred in many large mammals and fur.

So this is why elephants are bald. But what are we to make of mammoths, mastodons, and wooly rhinos?

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You still can’t rule out feathers for display purposes, perhaps on the head or (new hypothesis for function) on the arms.

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Also, this was done by a video game company, in consultation with paleontologists. Impressive.

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A post was split to a new topic: T-Rex is a Flightless Ground Bird?

I think they wanted to be paleontologists more than a video game company. This game generated some hype a couple years ago but has been stuck in Steam Early Access ever since. At this rate it won’t come out until the next mass extinction.

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Big difference between estimated temperatures in the Cretaceous (14C at the poles in winter) compared to the Pleistocene (5-10C lower than today)?

Great point. And in addition to the overall global temperature being different in the past, the land masses were positioned differently the further back in time you look. So the local climate (in the areas where these animals lived) would have been different just from that besides what the ice caps were doing.

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I’m going to try to comment on this later and explain why feathers are still a real possibility

But for starters here is a response from Tyrannosaur expert Thomas Holtz on some papers claiming no feathers:

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I am also aware they contend over whether t-rex was feathered. This article makes a good case it was feathered and more importantly how its hard to figure it out.
As a YEC either way is okay but I prefer a feathered t-rex to make the point it was a giant flightless ground bird.
just a bird and not a reptile/dinosaur.