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Scientists discover bird-like dinosaur from China had 'rainbow' feathers

Scientists discover bird-like dinosaur from China had 'rainbow' feathers

Its name reflects its appearance-in Mandarin, it means, "rainbow with the big crest".

The team found that the ones on the fossil were very similar in shape to the ones found in colourful hummingbirds.

"Hummingbirds have bright, iridescent feathers - but if you took a hummingbird feather and smashed it into tiny pieces, you'd only see black dust", Eliason said.

An worldwide team led by researchers from Shenyang Normal University in China and the University of Texas at Austin studied the dino fossil, which was discovered by a Chinese farmer in 2014.

An global team of scientists studying the dinosaur, called Caihong juji, made the discovery by carefully analyzing tiny melanosomes, the part of the cells that contain pigment, in the fossil, which turned up dramatic evidence of the dinosaur's flamboyant plumage.

The discovery "suggests a more colorful Jurassic World than we previously imagined", said evolutionary biologist Chad Eliason of the Field Museum in Chicago, one of the researchers.

The researchers examined the fossil using scanning electron microscope (SEM), which can tease through the tiny details of a surface. The plumage on its neck contain what appears to be traces of melanosomes - wide, pigment-containing packets that give feathers their colour. After studying the fossilized remains of the bird-like dinosaur, scientists discovered that the dinosaur had colorful rainbow-like feathers. The researchers are expected to further deepen their study to know more about the rainbow dinosaurs and how they used their iridescent feathers. Its tail feathers were asymmetrical, Dunham reports, a key aerodynamic trait that allows modern birds to steer while flying.

Caihong juji was a two-legged predator similar to a Velociraptor and would have probably hunted small mammals and lizards.

The bony crest on Caihong's head is also noteworthy when combined with its feathered features.

A new bird-like dinosaur was discovered in the North-East of China, in the Hebei Province.

Caihong had two types of feathers, "fuzzy" feathers and pennaceous ones, those that look like writing quills. The dinosaur had a crest on its head, a long wing and tail feathers, but it couldn't fly.

Caihong's were on its tail, not on it's arm feathers - suggesting that the tail was first utilised for flight.

The dinosaur lived 160 million years ago during the Jurassic Period. "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'.

"It has a rather velociraptor-looking low and long skull with this fully feathered, shaggy kind of plumage and a big fan tail", researcher Julia Clarke said in the university statement.

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.



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