Two of a Feather: A Comparison of the Preserved Integument in the Juvenile Theropod Dinosaurs Sciurumimus and Juravenator from the Kimmeridgian Torleite Formation of Southern Germany

Part of the Fascinating Life Sciences book series (FLS)


The discoveries of numerous theropod dinosaurs with filamentous integumentary structures in various stages of morphological complexity from the Upper Jurassic and Lower Cretaceous of China provided striking evidence that birds represent modern predatory dinosaurs and that feathers were originally filamentous. In the shadow of these impressive discoveries, two early juvenile theropod dinosaurs from the Upper Jurassic limestones of Bavaria (Germany), Juravenator starki and Sciurumimus albersdoerferi, were described. Both are preserved with phosphatized soft tissues, including skin and feathers. In the current study, the integumentary structures of both theropods are investigated and revised with the help of autofluorescence methods, using two different excitation wavelengths (UVA and cyan). Both theropods possessed monofilamentous feathers and scaleless skin. In J. starki, short feathers could only be traced in the tail region. The tubercle-like structures, originally described as scales, found in the anterior tail region of J. starki, show no autofluorescence signal and were reinterpreted as remains of adipocere, maybe indicating the presence of a fat body. S. albersdoerferi was probably entirely plumaged, possessing a filamentous crest on the dorsal edge in the anterior tail section. This current example emphasizes the importance of taphonomic reviews for the interpretation of integumentary structures. Furthermore, the new data give new insights into the early evolution of feathers. However, the placement of J. starki in multiple phylogenetic positions and differences in the morphological interpretation of filamentous feathers found in basal coelurosaurs produce contrasting reconstructions of character evolution that will need to be resolved in due course if greater clarity is to be obtained in this area.


Theropoda Integumentary structures Taphonomy Feather evolution 



We thank Raimund Albersdörfer and Martina Köbl-Ebert for access to the two specimens and Michael Pittman for critical discussion and reviewing the manuscript. This work was supported by the Volkswagen Foundation under grant I/84 640 (to OR), the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft under grant (FO 1005/2-1) and the Swiss National Science Foundation under grant PZ00P2_174040 (both to CF).


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeosciencesUniversité de FribourgFribourgSwitzerland
  2. 2.SMNS Staatliches Museum für Naturkunde StuttgartStuttgartGermany
  3. 3.LMU München, BiocenterPlanegg-MartinsriedGermany
  4. 4.GeoBio-Center of the LMU MünchenMunichGermany
  5. 5.StammhamGermany
  6. 6.SNSB, Bayerische Staatssammlung für Paläontologie und GeologieMunichGermany
  7. 7.Department for Earth and Environmental SciencesLMU MünchenMunichGermany

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