[The] Psittacosaurus, or parrot lizard, a beaked reptile about the size of a pig that could walk on either two or four legs.
Lingham-Soliar has identified what he says is fossilized surface skin as well as a cross-section of the thick layer below the surface, called the dermis, around the animal's lower left side.
"To have soft tissue preserved is amazing in the fossil record, because clearly the soft tissue is about the first thing that will decay and disintegrate," Lingham-Soliar said.
"Until now we had seen only surface preservations, but this is the first time we see a deep cross-section of the skin cut away at right angles to the surface."
The finding could also cast further doubt on a theory that had gained many proponents in recent years—the possibility that dinosaurs had primitive feathers, suggesting that some are the ancestors of today's birds.
Lingham-Soliar argues that the parrot lizard was adorned with bristles of collagen fibers, not early feathers.
"What is unexpected is the 40-plus layers of collagen, which even in thinner-skinned meat-eating dinosaurs would comprise many layers of fibers with the potential of being misidentified as proto-feathers," Lingham-Soliar said.
But not all paleontologists agree with his conclusion.
Hans-Dieter Sues is associate director for research and collections at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.
He said there is a "preponderance of evidence to support that birds came from dinosaurs" known as theropods.
"[Lingham-Soliar] has tried for some time to argue that the featherlike structures on the theropod dinosaurs from the same formation as [where] the Psittacosaurus [was found] are collagen fibers, too," Sues said.
"However, many of the Chinese theropods have complex structures that clearly cannot be explained away in that fashion."
Again, we find soft tissue and evidence refuting feathers. Even with the facts shoved right in their faces, they'll go down fighting for their dino to bird scenario.
I'm not so sure those birdies evolved from dinos, as recent findings suggest that the early history of birds was much more diverse than once thought, with a wide array of birds living during the Mesozoic era.
Personally, I'm waiting for the study that tells us how long fossilized soft tissue can survive before it will decay and disintegrate. Although, it really makes no difference as Team Evo will explain away the results one way or the other.