A duck-sized dinosaur recently discovered in northeastern China had glittering feathers like modern humming birds, a new study suggests.
The 161-million-year-old dinosaur, which has been named Caihong juji, meaning “rainbow with the big crest” in Mandarin Chinese, had a head and chest covered in shiny feathers similar to those seen on humming birds, said a new study, whose results were published in the journal Nature Communications on Monday.
Iridescent feathers, which can be seen on some modern bird species, have a metallic sheen and shimmer and shift in the light, giving them a “rainbow-like” appearance.
“When you look at the fossil record, you normally only see hard parts like bone, but every once in a while soft parts like feathers are preserved and you get a glimpse into the past,” said Chad Eliason, a bird researcher at The Field Museum in Chicago and one of the authors of the paper describing the dinosaur.
The dinosaur lived in upper Jurassic Period, some 95 million years before an asteroid, as most paleontologists now agree, hit the Earth and killed all non-avian dinosaurs and majority of avian species. All modern birds, from giant African ostriches to the tiniest Central American humming birds, are all descendants of the small group of avian-dinosaurs that survived the global calamity, technically called the K-Pg mass extinction.
The discovery “suggests a more colorful Jurassic World than we previously imagined,” further said Eliason, adding, “The preservation of this dinosaur is incredible; we were really excited when we realized the level of detail we were able to see on the feathers.”
To determine the coloring of Caihong juji, Eliason and his colleagues examined the preserved feathers under a microscope to see tiny imprints of cells called melanosomes, which contain pigment or the coloring agents. Based on different shapes of the cells, paleontologists can predict the coloring of the dinosaurs’ feathers, a technique that was first developed in 2010.
“Its plumage was a shiny rainbow of iridescent colors … but it didn’t stop there. It also had a funky crest of bone sticking up in front of its eyes, which was probably a display structure as well,” said paleontologist Steve Brusatte , who reviewed the study before publication.
Humming birds, which are considered as the tiniest dinosaurs that have ever lived, seems to have find some traces of their shiny coloring in distant past, among their ancestors.
“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,” Eliason added.
source: press tv