'Beautiful Feathered Tyrant' Too Fat to Fly

A team of Chinese and Canadian scientists announced on Wednesday that farmers had discovered a new species of dinosaur as big as a T-rex, covered in feathers, in a small quarry in northeast China. The dinosaurs, found in a pack of three, are the largest feathered animal ever discovered – alive or extinct.

Paleontologists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing named the species Yutyrannus huali, a Latin-Mandarin hybrid, meaning "beautiful feathered tyrant."

What no one has been able to figure out is why these hulking things had feathers (or, more accurately, baby chick-style fuzz; The BBC offers an artist's rendering) in the first place: these large carnivores would have been too big to fly.

According to Professor Xu Xing, one of the paleontologists who announced the discovery, a plausible theory states that the feathers served merely as a warm coat, though their spaced-out arrangement would not have been ideal for insulation.

Scientists' other guess: they were there purely for fashion, darling—a fetching covering designed to attract a mate.

In any event, this impractical feather accessory, coupled with paleontologists' descriptions of the animals ("beautiful," "sociable," "gregarious") kind of makes these guys sound like the drag queens of the dinosaur world.

On that note, here's a funny line from Dr. Paul Barrett, a dinosaur researcher at Britain's Natural History Museum:

"What the discovery shows is that you can still be a pretty big meat-eater and still get away with having feathers."

Yutyrannus huali: She couldn't fly, but, damn, she looked fly.

[Image via Shutterstock]