ScienceShot: Dinosaur Feathers Changed With Age

Beating the drinking age would have been quite a challenge during the Cretaceous period. New fossils uncovered in northeastern China show that two specimens of the same species of dinosaur, one juvenile and one adult, featured distinctly different feathers. Though the juvenile version of the genus, Similicaudipteryx, sported ribbon-like wing and tail feathers, its adult counterpart featured feathers resembling quills, researchers report tomorrow in Nature. Even more striking, the younger specimen's wing feathers are considerably smaller than its tail plumage, while the elder showed much less of a contrast. Such differences are virtually unknown in modern birds. The researchers suggest that for as-yet-unknown reasons, developmental diversity in feathers was lost in evolution.