Science

Bird-like Feather Dinosaur Discovered In China

Scientists keep discovering new species that lived millions of years ago. Their most recent discovery includes crow-sized, feather dinosaur, which incredibly resembles of a bird. The bird-like feather dinosaur was discovered in the northeastern China and is believed to have lived 161 million years ago, during the Jurassic Period, Reuters reports.

Bird-like Feather Dinosaur
Image Credit: vlaaitje / Pixabay

Scientists named the dinosaur Caihong, which is the Mandarin word that stands for rainbow. The fossil is nearly complete and incredibly preserved, when it comes to the microscopic structures scientists gathered. According to them, the fossil unearthed in Hebei Province, which is an indicator to the scientists that the bird-like feather dinosaur had feathers that were iridescent. Those were located on its head, neck, and chest. The colors were shining and were shifting in the presence of light. This is a similar behavior like in hummingbirds, according to Reuters.

The discovery “suggests a more colorful Jurassic World than we previously imagined,” Chad Eliason, evolutionary biologist of the Field Museum in Chicago, one of the authors of the study, said, as reported by Reuters.

With the help of powerful microscopes, scientists located the remains of organelles dubbed melanosomes, which are responsible for the pigmentation of the bird. Scientists detected them tucked within the feathers. The shape of those organelles determines the color. The feathers of Caihong, were containing melanosomes which are shaped like a pancake. Hummingbirds with iridescent feathers have similar shape of melanosomes.

Big part of Caihong’s body sported dark feathers, although iridescent feathers which look like a ribbon flattered its head and neck. Although the dinosaur had many bird-like traits, the researchers doubted that it could get airborne. The plumage could attract mates, but also serve as insulation.

The bird-like feathered dinosaur was a predator with a skull that reminds of Velociraptor’s. It had sharp teeth which helped it hung small mammals and lizards. The crests above its eyes resembled of boned eyebrows.

Bird-like feather dinosaur the first to sport asymmetrical feathers

According to the report in Reuters, many dinosaurs had feathers. Even birds evolved from small dinosaurs that had feathers, as the end of the Jurassic Period approached. The Caihong had fuzzy feathers and is considered the oldest known creature with feathers that are asymmetrical. Those are a trait, which birds used to steer in their flight. Caihong’s asymmetrical feathers were located on its tail.

“It is extremely similar to some early birds such as Archaeopteryx,” said paleontologist Xing Xu of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, referring to the earliest-known bird, which 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.”

When Reuters asked “what someone might say upon seeing Caihong, University of Texas paleontologist Julia Clarke responded, “‘Wow!’ And if they are anything like me, they might want one as a pet. Not suitable for children.”

The study has been published on Monday in journal Nature Communications.