The velociraptor, the fierce scaly-skinned dinosaur made popular by the film "Jurassic Park," actually had feathers, according to a study published on Thursday in the journal Science.
Scientists have long been aware that many dinosaurs had feathers, but scientists who made a fresh examination of a collection of velociraptor bones found indications of quill knobs where feathers may have been anchored.
Palaeontologists from the American Museum of Natural History and the Field Museum of Natural History made the discovery while examining fossils of a forearm bone that was dug up in Mongolia in 1998.
"The lack of quill knobs does not necessarily mean that a dinosaur did not have feathers," said lead author of the study Alan Turner. "Finding quill knobs on the velociraptor, though, means that it definitely had feathers. This is something we’d long suspected, but no one had been able to prove."
The feathers would have been anchored to the quill knobs via ligaments, but the study’s authors believe the dinosaur was not able to fly.
The velociraptor that was studied stood one metre tall and was about 1.5 metres long and weighed 14 kilograms, but its "relatively short forelimbs compared to a modern bird … indicated it lacked volant, or flight, abilities".
"Perhaps an ancestor of the velociraptor lost the ability to fly, but retained its feathers," which "may have been useful for display, to shield nests, for temperature control, or to help it manoeuvre while running".
The bones studied were found in the Gobi desert and are believed to be from the Cretaceous Period, believed to have been around 80 million years ago.
Palaeontologists believe that the first birds appeared 150 million years ago and that they were descendants of small feathered dinosaurs.