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Top Story

Diminutive dinosaur might have dazzled mates with rainbow ruff and a bony crest

Ancient dinosaurs were adorned in some amazing ways, from the horns of the triceratops to the plates and spikes of the stegosaurus. A newly discovered, bird-like dinosaur fossil from China contains evidence that could add a new accessory to the list: a shaggy ruff of rainbow feathers. A team of researchers is the first to conduct an in-depth study of the dinosaur and describe it. The researchers dubbed it Caihong juji -- a name that means "rainbow with the big crest" in Mandarin. They think the dinosaur used its flashy neck feathers and a bony crest on its snout to attract mates. Aside from making Jurassic ecosystems of 161 million years ago more colorful, the dinosaur is interesting because it has features that are both ancient and modern. The bony crest is a feature usually seen in dinosaurs from earlier eras, while its neck feathers show evidence of microscopic wide, flat, pigment-containing packages, or melanosomes. These may represent the first known occurrence of iridescence similar to that found in a variety of hummingbird species living today.

Visit Website | Image credit: Velizar Simeonovski/The Field Museum for UT Austin Jackson School of Geosciences