Feathered Polar Dinosaurs in Australia

Fossilized dinosaur and bird feathers have been recovered from the southern polar circle.

Feathered Polar Dinosaurs in Australia
Feathered Polar Dinosaurs
Feathered Polar Dinosaurs in Australia

Feathered Polar Dinosaurs in Australia


There is an ancient lake deposit that was once situated further from the southern polar circle. Scientists have recently recovered fossilized dinosaur and bird feathers’ cache form there. They believe that they may are about 118 million years old.  


Among all the fossils, the fossil of feathered dinosaur is pretty famous. But a few localities in the world have been proved to have them. It is a rare example of getting this type of feature from the Southern Hemisphere. They have only found isolated feathers in this study.  


The research team consists of scientists from all over the world. They have found 10 types of fossil feathers in Australia and deeply examined them. The feathers include 'proto-feathers.' They are tufted and supposed to be of meat-eating dinosaurs. They also found downy body feathers. The wing feather indicates the fact that the birds of the primitive period were able to fly.    

The fossils from Australia were buried in fine muddy sediments. The sediments were once under a shallow lack near to the South Pole. This place is the witness of the dinosaur regime.  


One of the leading authors of this study is Dr. Benjamin Kear, a professor from the Uppsala University in Sweden. He says, "Dinosaur skeletons and even the fragile bones of early birds have been found at ancient high-latitudes before. Yet, to date, no directly attributable integumentary remains have been discovered to show that dinosaurs used feathers to survive in extreme polar habitats."


He added, "These Australian fossil feathers are therefore highly significant because they came from dinosaurs and small birds that were living in a seasonally very cold environment with months of polar darkness every year."


There are many listed heritage sites in Australia. Koonwarra Fish Beds Geological Reserve is a well-known one that is located 145 km southeast of Melbourne in Victoria. Tne researchers discovered the fossil features here.  

Dr. Thomas Rich works in the Melbourne Museum. As a part of his work, he led several expeditions to the Koonwarra locality. He says, "Fossil feathers have been known from Koonwarra since the early 1960s, and were recognized as evidence of ancient birds, but have otherwise received very little scientific attention. Our study is thus the first to comprehensively document these remains, which include new specimens that were examined using cutting-edge technologies." 


In Koonwarra, the scientists used some advanced technology like microscopic and spectroscopic tests. It made the anatomy and preservation process easier to collect information about the fossil dinosaur and bird feathers. 

Professor Patricia Vickers is the Rich of Monash University and the Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne. This bird expert says, "The Koonwarra feathers are preserved in incredible detail. There are even tiny filament-like structures that would have 'zipped' the feather vanes together, just as in the flight feathers of modern birds."


The present day’s birds have features that are more structurally complex. They consist of barbs and barbules. These are the interlocking branches of the feather. But the feathers of the earlier small dinosaur were simpler. They were 'proto-feathers' and look like hair. 


Another major author of the study is Dr. Martin Kundrát form the Pavol Jozef Safarik University in Slovakia. He says, "Dinosaur 'proto-feathers' would have been used for insulation. The discovery of 'proto-feathers' at Koonwarra, therefore, suggests that fluffy feather coats might have helped small dinosaurs keep warm in ancient polar habitats."


Some of the fossils from the Koonwarra show cellular structures with color pigments in the melanosomes level.  


The feathers color has started changing by following some patterns. In the case of the polar dinosaurs and birds, it is apparent in dark feather surfaces and distinct bands. 


It is also similar to the other melanic residues found all around the world and highlights that it is an acknowledged indicator of dinosaur coloration.  


The dark-colored Koonwarra feathers are densely packed in the fossils. It suggests that dark color is assisted camouflage, visual communication, and heat absorbance in cold polar climates.  

It is recorded for the first time on the dinosaur integument on the ice-covered polar regions. The Koonwarra fossil feathers also show the distribution of feathered dinosaurs and early birds around the world.  


The Melbourne Museum in Australia held an exhibition named '600 Million Years' exhibition. The fossil feathers from the Koonwarra expedition were displayed in this although in a small amount.