Year in review: Roster of dinosaurs expands

Evidence suggests warmer, fuzzier beasts

Dreadnoughtus schrani

RETHINKING DINOS  With the discovery of several new species like Dreadnoughtus schrani — one of the largest dinosaurs ever found, weighing about 60 metric tons — and a few dogma-shaking revelations, dinosaurs got a total rethink in 2014.

Jennifer Hall



Dinosaurs roared into the news this year with the discovery of several new species and a few dogma-shaking revelations.

One skyscraping goliath found in Argentina was a plant eater that reached about as tall as a two-story building at its shoulders and weighed more than seven T. rexes (SN Online: 9/4/14). Scientists named the giant Dreadnoughtus (for “fears nothing”) schrani.

Another beast, dug up in Portugal, was a new T. rex–like species called Torvosaurus (“savage lizard”) gurneyi. It might have been the biggest predator to stalk through Europe during the late Jurassic period, 161 million to 145 million years ago (SN Online: 3/6/14).

Though these big dinos evoke Godzilla, people can probably dump the popular image of dinosaurs as lumbering, lizardlike swamp creatures. Instead, they may have been a bit more warm and cuddly. In 2014, researchers found more evidence that dinosaurs all wore some type of feathery coat (SN: 8/23/14,p. 15). Fuzzy filaments covered the body and limbs of a new species unearthed in Siberia. Because the dinosaur was only distantly related to the ancestors of birds, downy dino plumage may have been the norm.

Although 50 million years of continual shrinking transformed dinosaurs into birds (SN Online: 7/31/14), Tyrannosaurus, Allosaurus and their cousins probably didn’t share the flying animals’ rapid metabolisms. Instead, researchers proposed in June, dinosaurs fell somewhere in between warm-blooded birds and cold-blooded lizards (SN: 7/12/14, p. 6).

And rather than lurking just in balmy lagoons, dinosaurs settled in many different environments, including the ancient Arctic, with a climate similar to today’s Pacific Northwest. Herds of duck-billed dinosaurs may have made homes there year-round (SN: 8/9/14, p. 20).

One type of dinosaur probably even preferred an aquatic home. Spinosaurus, a sail-backed predator first described in 1915, may be the only known dinosaur to have dwelled in and out of  water, perhaps even hunting sharks (SN: 10/18/14, p. 10).

Meghan Rosen is a staff writer who reports on the life sciences for Science News. She earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biology with an emphasis in biotechnology from the University of California, Davis, and later graduated from the science communication program at UC Santa Cruz.

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