Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

  • Letter
  • Published:

A gigantic feathered dinosaur from the Lower Cretaceous of China


Numerous feathered dinosaur specimens have recently been recovered from the Middle–Upper Jurassic and Lower Cretaceous deposits of northeastern China, but most of them represent small animals1. Here we report the discovery of a gigantic new basal tyrannosauroid, Yutyrannus huali gen. et sp. nov., based on three nearly complete skeletons representing two distinct ontogenetic stages from the Lower Cretaceous Yixian Formation of Liaoning Province, China. Y. huali shares some features, particularly of the cranium, with derived tyrannosauroids2,3, but is similar to other basal tyrannosauroids4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12 in possessing a three-fingered manus and a typical theropod pes. Morphometric analysis suggests that Y. huali differed from tyrannosaurids in its growth strategy13,14. Most significantly, Y. huali bears long filamentous feathers, thus providing direct evidence for the presence of extensively feathered gigantic dinosaurs and offering new insights into early feather evolution.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Buy this article

Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Figure 1: Yutyrannus huali (ZCDM V5000 and ZCDM V5001).
Figure 2: Selected elements of Y. huali (ZCDM V5000, ZCDM V5001 and ELDM V1001).
Figure 3: A simplified cladogram showing the systematic position of Y. huali among the Tyrannosauroidea.

Similar content being viewed by others


  1. Xu, X. & Guo, Y. The origin and early evolution of feathers: insights from recent paleontological and neontological data. Vert. PalAsiatica 47, 311–329 (2009)

    Google Scholar 

  2. Holtz, T. R. in The Dinosauria 2nd edn (eds Weishampel, D.B., Dodson, P. & Osmólska, H. ) 111–136 (Univ. California Press, Berkeley, 2004)

    Book  Google Scholar 

  3. Currie, P. J. Cranial anatomy of tyrannosaurid dinosaurs from the Late Cretaceous of Alberta, Canada. Acta Palaeontol. Pol. 48, 191–226 (2003)

    Google Scholar 

  4. Rauhut, O. W. M., Milner, A. C. & Moore-Fay, S. Cranial osteology and phylogenetic position of the theropod dinosaur Proceratosaurus bradleyi (Woodward, 1910) from the Middle Jurassic of England. Zool. J. Linn. Soc. 158, 155–195 (2010)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Rauhut, O. W. M. A tyrannosauroid dinosaur from the Upper Jurassic of Portugal. Palaeontology 46, 903–910 (2003)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Xu, X. et al. Basal tyrannosauroids from China and evidence for protofeathers in tyrannosauroids. Nature 431, 680–684 (2004)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  7. Xu, X. et al. A basal tyrannosauroid dinosaur from the Late Jurassic of China. Nature 439, 715–718 (2006)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  8. Ji, Q., Ji, S. A. & Zhang, L. J. First known large tyrannosauroid theropod from the Early Cretaceous Jehol Biota in northeastern China. Geol. Bull. China 28, 1369–1374 (2009)

    MathSciNet  Google Scholar 

  9. Li, D. Q., Norell, M. A., Gao, K.-Q., Smith, N. D. & Makovicky, P. J. A longisrostrine tyrannosauroid from the Early Cretaceous of China. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B 277, 183–190 (2010)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Averianov, A. O., Krasnolutskii, S. A. & Ivantsov, S. V. A new basal coelurosaur (Dinosauria: Theropoda) from the Middle Jurassic of Siberia. Proc. Zool. Inst. RAS 314, 42–57 (2010)

    Google Scholar 

  11. Benson, R. B. J. New information on Stokesosaurus, a tyrannosauroid (Dinosauria: Theropoda) from North America and the United Kingdom. J. Vertebr. Paleontol. 28, 732–750 (2008)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Hutt, S., Naish, D., Martill, D. M., Barker, M. J. & Newbery, P. A preliminary account of a new tyrannosauroid theropod from the Wessex Formation (Early Cretaceous) of southern England. Cretac. Res. 22, 227–242 (2001)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Erickson, G. M. et al. Gigantism and comparative life-history parameters of tyrannosaurid dinosaurs. Nature 430, 772–775 (2004)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  14. Currie, P. J. Allometric growth in tyrannosaurids (Dinosauria: Theropoda) from the Upper Cretaceous of North America and Asia. Can. J. Earth Sci. 40, 651–665 (2003)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  15. Brusatte, S. et al. Tyrannosaur paleobiology: new research on ancient exemplar organisms. Science 329, 1481–1485 (2010)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  16. Sereno, P. C. et al. Tyrannosaurid skeletal design first evolved at small body size. Science 326, 418–422 (2009)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  17. Fowler, D. W., Woodward, H. N., Freedman, E. A., Larson, P. L. & Horner, J. R. Reanalysis of ‘Raptorex kriegsteini’: a juvenile tyrannosaurid dinosaur from Mongolia. PLoS ONE 6, e21376 (2011)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  18. Swisher, C. C. et al. Further Support for a Cretaceous age for the feathered-dinosaur beds of Liaoning, China: New 40Ar/39Ar dating of the Yixian and Tuchengzi Formations. Chin. Sci. Bull. 47, 135–138 (2002)

    Google Scholar 

  19. Christiansen, P. & Fariña, R. A. Mass prediction in theropod dinosaurs. Hist. Biol. 16, 85–92 (2004)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Ortega, F., Escaso, F. & Sanz, J. L. A bizarre, humped Carcharodontosauria (Theropoda) from the Lower Cretaceous of Spain. Nature 467, 203–206 (2010)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  21. Brochu, C. A. Osteology of Tyrannosaurus rex: insights from a nearly complete skeleton and high-resolution computed tomographic analysis of the skull. J. Vertebr. Paleontol. Mem. 7, 1–138 (2003)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Brusatte, S. L., Carr, T. D., Erickson, B. R., Bever, G. S. & Norell, M. A. A long-snouted, multihorned tyrannosaurid from the late Cretaceous of Mongolia. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 106, 17261–17266 (2009)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  23. Xu, X., Tang, Q.-W., Wang, J.-M., Zhao, X.-J. & Tan, L. A gigantic bird-like dinosaur from the late Cretaceous of China. Nature 447, 844–847 (2007)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  24. Xu, X., Tang, Z.-L. & Wang, X.-L. A therizinosauroid dinosaur with integumentary structures from China. Nature 399, 350–354 (1999)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  25. Paul, G. S. in Tyrannosaurus rex, the Tyrant King (eds Carpenter, K. & Larson, P.E. ) 354–368 (Indiana Univ. Press, 2008)

    Google Scholar 

  26. Currie, P. J., Badamgarav, D. & Koppelhus, E. B. The first Late Cretaceous footprints from the Nemegt Locality in the Gobi of Mongolia. Ichnos 10, 1–13 (2003)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Amiot, R. et al. Oxygen isotopes of east Asian dinosaurs reveal exceptionally cold Early Cretaceous Climates. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 108, 5179–5183 (2011)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  28. Fiorillo, A. R. & Gangloff, R. A. Theropod teeth from the Prince Creek Formation (Cretaceous) of northern Alaska, with speculations on Arctic dinosaur paleoecology. J. Vertebr. Paleontol. 20, 675–682 (2000)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Spicer, R. A. & Herman, A. B. The Late Cretaceous environment of the Arctic: a quantitative reassessment based on plant fossils. Paleogeogr. Palaeoclimatol. Palaeoecol. 295, 423–442 (2010)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  30. Deng, T. et al. Out of Tibet: Pliocene woolly rhino suggests high-plateau origin of ice age megaherbivores. Science 333, 1285–1288 (2011)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references


We thank L. Zhang for discussions, R. Li, H. Zang and X. Ding for illustrations, and H. Wang, L. Xiang and R. Cao for preparing the specimens. We thank the Zhucheng Municipal Government and Erlianhaote Municipal Government for support. This study was supported by grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China and Special Funds For Major State Basic Research Projects of China.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



X.X. designed the project. X.X., K.W., K.Z., Q.M., L.X., C.S., D.H., S.C. and S.W. performed the research. X.X., C.S. and Q.M. wrote the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Xing Xu.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

This file contains Supplementary Text 1-6 (see page 1 for details), Supplementary Figures 1-6, Supplementary Tables 1-2 and additional references. (PDF 938 kb)

PowerPoint slides

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Xu, X., Wang, K., Zhang, K. et al. A gigantic feathered dinosaur from the Lower Cretaceous of China. Nature 484, 92–95 (2012).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing