The discovery of a giant meat-eating dinosaur sporting a downy coat has some scientists reimagining the look of Tyrannosaurus rex.

With a killer jaw and sharp claws, T. rex has long been depicted in movies and popular culture as having scaly skin. But the discovery of an earlier relative suggests the king of dinosaurs may have had a softer side.

The evidence comes from the unearthing of a new tyrannosaur species in north-eastern China that lived 60 million years before T. rex. The fossil record preserved remains of fluffy down, making it the largest feathered dinosaur ever found.

If a T. rex relative had feathers, why not T. rex? Scientists said the evidence is trending in that direction.

Much smaller dinosaurs with primitive feathers have been excavated in recent years, but this is the first direct sign of a huge, shaggy dinosaur.

Scientists have long debated whether gigantic dinosaurs lost their feathers the bigger they got or were just not as extensively covered.

The new tyrannosaur species, Yutyrannus huali, is described in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.

Its name is a blend of Latin and Mandarin, which translates to “beautiful feathered tyrant.”

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