This Bird-Like Dinosaur Featured A Stunning Rainbow-Coloured Mane

This Bird-Like Dinosaur Featured A Stunning Rainbow-Coloured Mane

Scientists discovered a "rainbow" dinosaur fossil in northeastern China and determined the Jurassic Period creature had colorful and iridescent feathers, according to a Monday Reuters report.

The global team of researchers who described the new dinosaur believe that these features may have something to do with attracting mates. This suggests Caihong had a flashy, rainbow head.

To determine the relationship between the melanosomes' shapes and particular colors, the researchers consulted a database, begun by researchers now at the University of Ghent, that holds thousands of scanning electron micrographs of melanosomes from modern birds in collections around the world.

Using powerful microscopes, scientists found organelles - structures within a cell - that are responsible for the pigmentation of feathers (called melanosomes). The scientists have named the ancient bird-like dinosaur as Caihong juji, Mandarin for "rainbow with the big crest". The rest of its plumage was black, maybe to contrast his glittering, attractive rainbow feathers.

"The tail feathers are asymmetrical, but the wing feathers aren't, a freaky feature previously unknown among dinosaurs and birds", said Xing Xu from the Chinese Academy of Science, a co-author of the study. Its chest, neck and head feathers resemble those of hummingbirds.

The slab of rock from China's Hebei Province where the dinosaur was discovered by a farmer in 2014 contained a almost complete skeleton surrounded by impressions made by feathers. The fossil had pancake-shaped melanosomes that were similar to hummingbirds - which have iridescent feathers.

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From here, the researchers are aiming to work out how Caihong developed such a unique look, something they describe as evidence of mosaic evolution, where distinct traits evolve independently from one another.

It is the earliest-known creature with asymmetrical feathers, a trait used by birds to steer when flying.

"The tail feathers are asymmetrical but wing feathers are not, a freaky feature previously unknown among dinosaurs including birds", said Xu. The researchers say it is the earliest known dinosaur to display feathers of this type and, though they are found today on the wingtips of modern birds, Caihong's asymmetrical feathers were found on its tail.

"The tail feathers are asymmetrical but wing feathers are not, a weird feature previously unknown among dinosaurs including birds", Xu says.

The skull of Caihong is similar to that of Velociraptor, but it also has a bony crest in the middle of its head. The researchers are expected to further deepen their study to know more about the rainbow dinosaurs and how they used their iridescent feathers. Caihong's were on its tail, suggesting tail feathers, not arm feathers, were first utilized for aerodynamic locomotion. Of all the bird samples, the hummingbird came closest to the coloring of this odd dinosaur. "It has a rather Velociraptor-looking low and long skull with this fully feathered, shaggy kind of plumage and a big fan tail".

Asked what someone might say upon seeing Caihong, University of Texas paleontologist Dr Julia Clarke said, '"Wow!"

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