'Bird-Like' Dinosaur With Rainbow Feathers Discovered In China


The shapes of those melanosomes were preserved in some of this dinosaur's feathers, according to the study, and the team analyzed them to find that they were comparable to the kind that give hummingbirds their iridescent, rainbow-colored feathers. The feathers would have shimmered and shifted in the light, similar to those of hummingbirds. They have unearthed the almost complete fossil of a previously undiscovered dinosaur that has been named Caihong juji.

An global team led by researchers from Shenyang Normal University in China and the University of Texas at Austin studied the dino fossil, which was discovered by a Chinese farmer in 2014.

The fossil it left behind indicates a bony crest on its beak, and a brilliant, iridescent ruff of feathers around its neck - the earliest evidence of a colour-based display. These pigments were nothing but the remnants of an organelle called melanosomes.

The discovery 'suggests a more colourful Jurassic World than we previously imagined, ' said evolutionary biologist Chad Eliason of the Field Museum in Chicago, one of the researchers in the study.

When Dr Eliason and his colleagues examined the preserved feathers under a microscope, they could see tiny imprints of cells called melanosomes.

It turns out, pigment isn't necessary to determine color if you are still able to see melanosomes, the cells that contain pigment. The Caihong had many bird characteristics but scientists say it was unlikely to have gotten off the ground. Co-author of the study Xing Xu, a paleontologist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences informed that the Caihong juji lived in forests and might have glided from tree to tree, preying on small lizards as well as mammals. While its distinctive feathers were a relatively recent evolution, it had several traits typical of much earlier dinosaurs, including a bony crest on its head.

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"I came out of the project with a whole different set of questions that I wanted answers to-when I open up a drawer full of birds in the Field Museum's collections, now I want to know when those iridescent feathers first developed, and how". That was a complete skeleton of Caihong juji.

"The tail feathers are asymmetrical but wing feathers are not, a freaky feature previously unknown among dinosaurs including birds", says co-author Xing Xu from the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The Archaeopteryx is the first known example of a bird, and it lived 150 million years ago.

'Its forelimbs were configured like wings.

'To be honest, I am not sure what function the feathers have, and I don't think that you can completely exclude the possibility that the feathers helped the animal to get in the air'.

"This combination of traits is unusual", Clarke says. And if they are anything like me, they might want one as a pet'. The scientists have named the ancient bird-like dinosaur as Caihong juji, Mandarin for "rainbow with the big crest".