In a new work published today in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution, a team from Nanjing, Bristol, Cork, Beijing, Dublin, and Hong Kong show that pterosaurs had at least four types of feathers:
– simple filaments (‘hairs’)
– bundles of filaments
– filaments with a tuft halfway down
– down feathers.
“We focused on clear areas where the feathers did not overlap and where we could see their structure clearly. They even show fine details of melanosomes, which may have given the fluffy feathers a ginger colour. … we couldn’t find any anatomical evidence that the four pycnofibre types are in any way different from the feathers of birds and dinosaurs. Therefore, because they are the same, they must share an evolutionary origin, and that was about 250 million years ago, long before the origin of birds.”
I was taught that pterosaurs probably had fur, not feathers. Nope. Very snazzy revision to our understanding of the early evolution of feathers.