Meet Caihong Juji: The Shimmering Show-Off Feathered Dinosaur

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Right here’s a fairly factor: newly described feathered dinosaur Caihong juji had iridescent feathers, the earliest such instance within the fossil file. (Credit score Velizar Simeonovski/The Subject Museum)

Ooh, shiny! The latest dinosaur on the paleoscene is greater than just a little eye-catching: Researchers consider the duck-sized Caihong juji was rocking iridescent feathers on its head, wings and tail. If it was certainly so fancy, it’s the earliest instance within the fossil file of such shimmering finery.

Formally described right now, C. juji was found in northeastern China, residence to many feathered dinosaur finds (however not any tyrannosaurs!). Its identify interprets from Mandarin as “rainbow with a giant crest” and so they’re not kidding.

C. juji had a bony crest on prime of its head and lengthy, streamer-like feathers, a few of which had been preserved when the animal was fossilized. And it’s what researchers noticed after they took have a look at these feathers that’s so thrilling.

Melanosomes, the mobile constructions that maintain pigment, are available in numerous shapes, which have an effect on how the precise coloration of the feather is perceived. Platelet- or pancake-shaped melanosomes are present in iridescent feathers equivalent to these of hummingbirds and different fancy kinds.

Based mostly on the imprints of melanosomes within the C. juji fossil, it seems the animal’s head and wings, and components of its tail, had iridescent feathers. If that’s the case, that might make C. juji, which lived 161 million years in the past, the oldest recognized animal with iridescent feathers. By evaluating the melanosome imprints within the fossil with these of recent birds, the researchers reconstructed not solely the shimmy and shine of C. juji‘s feathers but additionally the precise colours they consider would have been perceived. In a phrase: rainbow.

A comparison of melanosomes from C. juji (four images in top row) to those from modern birds with iridescent feathers. (Credit et al)

A comparability of melanosomes from C. juji (prime row) with these of iridescent feathers from fashionable birds. (Credit score Hu et al/DOI:10.1038/s41467-017-02515-y)

C. juji can be neat as a result of it seems to have had the oldest recognized instance of asymmetrical feathers, which fashionable dinosaurs (aka birds) use to steer in flight. C. juji was grounded, nevertheless. The feathers had been on its tail, not its wings as they’re for birds. However the discovery results in every kind of intriguing questions on how and why the feathers developed and what goal they served.

As for the aim of C. juji‘s incredible rainbow trend, the researchers suspect that, like many birds, its plumage was the equal of a “hey, child” and attracted potential mates. I do know I all the time like a fella with a giant crest and rainbow aptitude.

In the present day’s analysis seems in Nature Communications.

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