Monsters in Feathers?

Photo source: eBay

Photo source: eBay

Our new cat, Clive Bond,  has a weakness: feathers.

Not necessarily operative ones; not the regimented wear of the blackbird or magpie, but those flirty, flighty numbers which tend to end their days on feather boas. Their impossibly soft pliable nature, combined with their teasing come-hither flyaway cluelessness, seems irresistible to a cat who is otherwise, a very masculine sort.

This morning we rose and dressed and I ran with the dog in the forest and when I came back I noticed a black shadow disappearing with something pink. He ran under my desk and endeavoured for all his worth not to be seen.

On investigation his quarry was a pink bunny-ears headdress (think Hefner) edged with plastic diamonds.

We named Clive after Clive of India, Bond after the redoubtable James. I never saw James Bond bedecking himself in pink flirty feathers. Shouldn’t he be tracking down large evil-eyed rats, battling yellow-tailed monsters in dark corners of the neighbourhood?

And then I happened upon a piece of prehistory which put the whole slinky feather-boa thing into context.

Once upon a time, everyone thought dinosaurs had just disappeared in some great catastrophic event. And then, in the 80s, people began looking once again at birds. And it seemed most clear that these small monstrous sweethearts were the biological bolthole of the great dragons of yore.

But we all know that Tyrannosaurus Rex did not look like a bird. He could not possibly have had feathers. That would be silly.

Wouldn’t it?

Enter Dilong.

Dilong is a little, early tyrannosaur-type, a predecessor of the big guys. He turned up during a dig in near Lujiatun, Beipiao, in the western Liaoning province of China, roundabout 2004, and he turned everyone’s preconceptions on their heads.

Because Dilong had feathers. Not tidy feathers with a neat spine and waterproof imperviousness, but the scrappy duck-down sort. So that Dilong just looked a bit shaggy as he ran around, covered with these and scales as well.

But little tyrannosaurs are a long way from big tyrannosaurs. For too much fur, or feathers, or whatever,could have caused overheating in a great predator like Tyrannosaurus Rex, couldn’t it?

Not if you believe a fossil dealer from a remote Chinese province, it couldn’t.

I don’t have his name. But he approached archaeologists with a set of three fossils: an adult, a ‘subadult’ and a juvenile. He had found them all in the same place, he told the team of archaeologists: single quarry at Batuyingzi in Liaoning, the same province which gave us Dilong.

They’re big tyrannosaurs, Not Tyrannosaurus Rex yet, but much closer.

And guess what.

They have feathers. Not smart glossy well honed ones, but the type Bond adores: scruffy, flirty feathers, fuzzy dinosaur couture. They were up to 20cm long, and used for insulation (China can be nippy) and display. In fact they had wavy crests on their snouts which may, it is conjectured, have been used for display.

And so scientists are beginning to think that -if that Chinese fossil dealer is the real deal,  the great macho king of the dinosaurs, Tyrannosaurus Rex, could very possibly have had feathers.

Somewhere inside my small cat’s most primitive instincts, is it possible a sabre-toothed ancestral memory lies? Is he chasing the pink bunny feathers because it reminds him- even just a little – of a great monstrous dragon who walked this earth dressed head to toe in feathers?

Well, of course he is, silly.


33 thoughts on “Monsters in Feathers?

    1. Ah, but seasoned journalists like you and I look BEHIND the stories, PT. When did the first cat hunt the first bird? Who won? Were they fluffy? And did – and this is the crunch question – a triceratops come along at the crucial moment and distract Mr T-Rex so the cat could flit off and wait until these big reptile thingies became manageably smaller?

  1. I read your article to Rover (well why read yourself when you have staff?) He gave me the inscrutable Fu Man Chu look, which we tend to interpret more as Frances Urqhuart. Think you might be on to something… :-0

  2. I knew that some dinosaurs had feathers, but I’m really captivated (tickled pink possibly? Sorry) by the thought of a huge, scary, fluffy TRex, in a boa and heels.

  3. Have been reading new theories T-Rex and current thinking is that it was not terror of world but a scavenger like a vulture that gobbled up dead stuff all day long to support metabolism of such big size creature.

  4. My son, so sweetly I will add, bought his brother a parrot pen for Christmas. Full plumage and vibrant red that parrot pen WAS. My fluffy ball of fur, Noir, devoured that pen after he stole it with grease lightening. There was no warning, no chance at catching him, no opportunity to save the poor pens soul. God rest the feather parrot pen and my child’s loss of holiday cheer.

      1. at least we are here to laugh, and yes, thank you for that! 🙂 The things that little kitties love to steal. The last one that was rather humorous (now after the fact) was my bathing suit bra liner. My husband picked that up in front of people and said very loudly “WHAT is this?!”

  5. Funny cat, that Clive. Our cat, Zoe, once at part of an angora sweater. A great big hole it was. My mom was watching the girls so Tom and I could have a date night. We came back to my poor mom, pacing the floor, wondering, no doubt, how she was going to break the news to me.

  6. When one thinks of it, the Red Indian Chiefs and Zulus of old must have been taking their lives in their hands with feather headdresses, where there were mountain lions or pumas or lions or leopards about.

  7. A T-Rex in a purple boa would be quite the sight. Go Clive . . . your diminuitive sabre-tooth. Debra has a video of the sabre-tooth on her blog today. 😀

  8. Shall look for this little creature when creating my last journal page for our summer reading program, Kate! This year’s theme is “dig into reading” and I create a themed journal with info and pictures to inspire reading. I decided our mascot is digging around for dinos. Europe and North Am. are done – next week is Asia. It is amazing how many are linked to birds – in NAM, during Triassic, one of the little dinos showed a wishbone! (sorry to go-on, but I’m under deadline on this project and dino books have occupied my life for 2 weeks now, oy!)

  9. I’m intrigued as to the existence of “pink bunny-ears headdress (think Hefner) edged with plastic diamonds” in th Shrewsday household…

  10. I have two little girls who have gone completely bonkers over dinosaurs and are following the bones with as much intensity as their little minds can absorb, so we’ve been intrigued with this find in China. I must say that you’ve added a very humorous addition to the on-going plot. Next time I watch the saber-toothed tiger video for the umpteenth time I’m going to visualize Clive!

  11. I’m trying to envision a T rex with a boa. Hysterical. Yet, that idea of dinosaurs as birds was mentioned in “Jurassic Park” (1993). The ‘paleontologist’ in the movie gave some solid reasons for this notion.

    You’re right, Kate. Clive is just exercising his primordial instincts.

  12. I keep coming back to the image of Clive you posted on Facebook the other day. Such a dignified and mysterious man-cat, he, while he lolls and cavorts in feathers! Love!

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