Moulting tail feathers in a juvenile oviraptorisaur

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Arising from Xing Xu, Xiaoting Zheng & Hailu You Nature 464, 1338–1341 (2010)10.1038/nature08965; Xu et al. reply

Xu et al.1 describe the extraordinarily preserved feathers from two subadults of the oviraptorisaur Similicaudipteryx from the Yixian Formation of Liaoning, China. The preserved tail feathers of the juvenile specimen (STM4.1) show a morphology not previously observed in any fossil feathers. The tail feathers of an older, immature specimen (STM22-6) show a typical closed pennaceous structure with a prominent, planar vane. I propose that the feathers of the tail of the juvenile specimen are not a specialized feather generation, but fossilized ‘pin feathers’ or developing feather germs.

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Figure 1: Developing primary wing feathers of a nestling Great Horned Owl.


  1. 1

    Xu, X., Zheng, X. & You, H. Exceptional dinosaur fossils show ontogenetic development of early feathers. Nature 464, 1338–1341 (2010)

  2. 2

    Lucas, A. M. & Stettenheim, P. R. Avian Anatomy: Integument (US Dept of Agriculture, 1972)

  3. 3

    Prum, R. O. & Williamson, S. Theory of the growth and evolution of feather shape. J. Exp. Zool. 291, 30–57 (2001)

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Prum, R. Moulting tail feathers in a juvenile oviraptorisaur. Nature 468, E1 (2010) doi:10.1038/nature09480

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