Feathered Dinosaurs

Not all dinosaurs went extinct 65 million years ago. One group survived, and we see their descendants every day. We call them birds.  Paleontologists recognized this link over 125 years ago, and have been investigating it ever since. Discoveries have included shared skeletal features like hollow bones and hips that allow walking upright, and fossils of feathers and nesting grounds. New finds continue to fill in the bird family tree and shed light on ancient dinosaur behavior.

Support for the development of Science Topics was generously provided by Sidney and Helaine Lerner, GRACE Communications Foundation.

What Was Dinosaur Skin Like?

What Was Dinosaur Skin Like?

Reptile skin is a complex system of scales separated by flexible joints, which are identical to scales, except thinner. In birds, the only living group of dinosaurs, the scales are modified into feathers, except around the feet and beak. 

Liaoning Diorama

Liaoning Diorama

Get ready to travel back in time. Your voyage will take you to a part of eastern Asia as it looked 130 million years ago. At the time, this region—now in the Chinese province of Liaoning—was warm and dry

Birds: Living Dinosaurs

Birds: Living Dinosaurs

This section of the exhibition examined the links between dinosaurs and birds, the continued search for more evidence to support this link, and the origin of feathers.

Archaeopteryx Lacked Rapid Bone Growth, the Hallmark of Birds

Archaeopteryx Lacked Rapid Bone Growth, the Hallmark of Birds

First found in Germany in the 1860's and dating to 150 million years ago, Archaeopteryx has long been considered the iconic first bird. But microscopic imaging of bone structure published in PLoS One shows that this famously feathered fossil grew much slower than living birds and more like non-avian dinosaurs.

Buried Bones

Buried Bones

In this activity, you and a friend will create two make-believe dig sites by burying chicken bones in plaster of Paris - a powder that hardens when wet. Then you'll try to excavate (dig out) the "fossils."

What Was Dinosaur Skin Like?

What Was Dinosaur Skin Like?

Reptile skin is a complex system of scales separated by flexible joints, which are identical to scales, except thinner. In birds, the only living group of dinosaurs, the scales are modified into feathers, except around the feet and beak. 

Newly Discovered Dinosaur Implies Greater Prevalence of Feathers

Newly Discovered Dinosaur Implies Greater Prevalence of Feathers

A new species of feathered dinosaur discovered in southern Germany is further changing the perception of how predatory dinosaurs looked. The fossil of Sciurumimus albersdoerferi, which lived about 150 million years ago, provides the first evidence of feathered theropod dinosaurs that are not closely related to birds.

New Finding: Dinosaur’s Feathers Were Black with Iridescent Sheen

New Finding: Dinosaur’s Feathers Were Black with Iridescent Sheen

A pigeon-sized, four-winged dinosaur known as Microraptor had black iridescent feathers when it roamed the Earth 130 million years ago, according to 2012 research led by a team of American and Chinese scientists that includes Museum researchers.

Bambiraptor and Birds

Bambiraptor and Birds

The idea that birds are living dinosaurs has been accepted by most paleontologists for some time. But the discovery ofBambiraptor has led to some intriguing new ideas about the strong links between birds and dinosaurs. Bambiraptorwas probably covered in feathers and its skeleton was almost identical to that of a modern bird.

Explore the Family Tree of Birds

Explore the Family Tree of Birds

Developed for the Seminars on Science online course The Link Between Dinosaurs and Birds, Dr. Mark Norell investigates the family tree of birds, focusing on early species like Archaeopteryx and Apsaravis.