Newly discovered 'rainbow' dinosaur had shiny, colourful feathers like a hummingbird

Newly discovered 'rainbow' dinosaur had shiny, colourful feathers like a hummingbird

Newly discovered 'rainbow' dinosaur had shiny, colourful feathers like a hummingbird

They named the 161-million-year-old dinosaur from the Jurassic age Caihong juji, which translates from Mandarin to "rainbow with the big crest".

The worldwide team of researchers who described the new dinosaur believe that these features may have something to do with attracting mates. That was a complete skeleton of Caihong juji. They have unearthed the almost complete fossil of a previously undiscovered dinosaur that has been named Caihong juji.

These miniscule organelles are responsible for pigmentation, and their shape determines color.

Those nanostructures called melanosomes explain how the creature came to possess such festive plumage. The new species - called Caihong juji, Mandarin for "rainbow with the big crest" - is described in a study published by an global team of scientists, including Chad Eliason, a postdoctoral researcher at The Field Museum. As with some modern-day birds, the flashy appearance may have helped with attracting mates.

"The tail feathers are asymmetrical but wing feathers not, a freakish feature previously unknown among dinosaurs including birds", said co-author Xing Xu of the Chinese Academy of Science.

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The major section of the body is covered with black feathers while its head and neck gets a colourful rainbow touch.

The fossil of the small dinosaur was found in the northern region of the Hebei Province in north east China.

"Iridescent coloration is well known to be linked to sexual selection and signaling, and we report its earliest evidence in dinosaurs", says Julia Clarke, a professor in the geological sciences department at the University of Texas at Austin Jackson School of Geosciences. It's due to their pancake shape and distribution that the feathers exhibit iridescence (the ability to change color as the angle shifts). The researchers were unable to exactly match Caihong's colors but are confident it had an iridescent glimmer, Greshko writes. Importantly, C. juji also featured asymmetrical feathers, which modern birds use to control flight. Scientists also found asymmetrical feathers on its tail. The dinosaur's asymmetrical feathers were on its tail - as opposed to on the wingtips - and were primarily used to keep warm, the researchers found.

But while Caihong's feathers were a first, it had other traits associated with much earlier species of dinosaurs, including the bony crest on its head. 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. "This suggests that controlling [flight] might have first evolved with tail feathers". "It has a rather Velociraptor-looking low and long skull with this fully feathered, shaggy kind of plumage and a big fan tail".

Based on different shapes of the cells, palaeontologists can predict the colouring of the dinosaurs' feathers, a technique that was first developed in 2010.

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