Fossils of a Sinosauropteryx prima, found in China, are of a theropod dinosaur with what appears to be feathers. At first, scientists believed feathers ran down the dinosaur’s back. Upon closer study, it is now thought the animal actually had feather-like structures. The reason for this arrangement is debated. Some scientists believe the structures were used for movement; other scientists believe they were probably protofeathers, an early step toward the evolution of bird feathers. The Sinosauropteryx is one of the “Chinese feathered” dinosaurs and is a more recent evolutionary development than the Archaeopteryx. Some scientists believe they are one of the most primitive coelurasaurs, as seen from their skeletal features.
It is believed that feathers were originally used by dinosaurs like this Gigantoraptor erlianensis for ornamentation or possibly insulation, and not for flying (Big Stock Photo).