'Rainbow' Dinosaur Revealed in Field Museum Study

The world's most beautiful dinosaur? Newly-found Chinese RAINBOW predator that lived 161 million years ago had stunning iridescent feathers like hummingbirds

Scientists have discovered a crow-sized, bird-like dinosaur with colourful feathers that lived 161 million years ago. Scientists believe the crest played a significant role in mating, along with the shiny feathers.

Caihong juji's skull shape resembles that of a velociraptor. They have unearthed the almost complete fossil of a previously undiscovered dinosaur that has been named Caihong juji.

The researchers determined the dinosaur's colorful characteristics by inspecting imprints left by melanosomes, which The Field Museum describes as the "part of cells that contain pigments".

An worldwide team of researchers, led by Dr Dongyu Hu of the Shenyang Normal University, found the immaculate fossil in the Hebei region of China. Scientists are claiming to have traced this phenomenon all the way back to an ancient bird-like dinosaur, which they say used a colorful ring of neck feathers to woo potential suitors 160 million years ago.

"The tail feathers are asymmetrical, but the wing feathers aren't, a freaky feature previously unknown among dinosaurs and birds", said Xing Xu from the Chinese Academy of Science, a co-author of the study. Analysis of fossils from the specimen suggest that it was covered in long feathers, some of which appeared iridescent - meaning the colours shimmered and shifted in the light, much like modern hummingbirds.

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

Xu said, "I was shocked by its beautifully preserved feathers, even though I had seen many feathered dinosaur fossils previously".

By examining the fossilized feathers under a microscope, researchers detected structures that hint at possible colors. As Caihong's were on its tail, the creature likely used its tail feathers to fly.

Preserved in the slab of rock where Caihong juji was found were impressions made by its feathers, along with impressions made by the microscopic melanosomes themselves.

"The tail feathers are asymmetrical but wing feathers are not, a freaky feature previously unknown among dinosaurs including birds", said Xu.

On one hand, it has a bony crest that is typically found on dinosaurs from earlier eras. (C. juji is thought to be the earliest known example of this melanosome shape.) The dinosaur's melanosomes were arranged differently than a penguin's, so the researchers settled on screeching neon over somber black. "This suggests that controlling [flight] might have first evolved with tail feathers during some kind of aerial locomotion". "It has a velociraptor-type skull on the body of this very avian, fully feathered, fluffy kind of form".

"When we put these data on the evolutionary tree, we recognize two different ways of creating iridescent color in small raptor dinosaurs before the origin of birds", says co-author Julia Clarke, a paleontologist at the University of Texas at Austin.

Iridescent feathers, which are found on some modern bird species, have a metallic sheen and change colour when viewed from different angles, giving them a "rainbow-like" appearance.

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