Crow size, bird like 'rainbow' dinosaur discovered



Birds are the last remaining dinosaurs.

"I was shocked by its beautifully preserved feathers, even though I had seen many feathered dinosaur fossils previously", said Xing Xu, a paleontologist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and a co-author of the study. This is why scientists have chosen the name Caihong juji for the beast, which translates in English to "rainbow with a big crest".

The skull of Caihong is similar to that of Velociraptor, but it also has a bony crest in the middle of its head.

Three years ago, a farmer in the Hebei province of China uncovered a mysterious fossil and brought it to the the Paleontological Museum of Liaoning. Normally it'd be hard to figure out the color of a dinosaur, but in this case the fossil was so well-preserved that it contained traces of feather pigments.

"The preservation of this dinosaur is incredible; we were really excited when we realised the level of detail we were able to see on the feathers". The neck part of the creature contains some melanosomes.

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But just how do scientists know what colors the feathers were? "The pigment in the feathers is black, but the shapes of the [cells] that produce the pigment are what make the colors in hummingbird feathers that we see". The platelet-shaped melanosomes around C.

The impression of the skeleton can be seen in brown and the feathers in black.

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It's been named Caihong, the Mandarin word for rainbow. The feathers would have shimmered and shifted in the light, similar to those of hummingbirds.

Paleontologist Dongyu Hu, the lead author of the study, said that the newly found dinosaur had some mix of ancient and modern features which also include iridescent plumage found on some living birds. The discovery indicates that parts of Caihong's feather coat were luminous and multicolored, like a hummingbird's throat.

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There are other elements that are more odd, like the presence of asymmetrical feathers on its tail rather than its wingtips, where they appear today to help birds fly. "This suggests that controlling [flight] might have first evolved with tail feathers during some kind of aerial locomotion".

All those colors are long gone to the human eye, but because feathers owe their color to microscopic anatomy, striking evidence of the dinosaur's plumage is still there to be found.

"This combination of traits is unusual", Clarke says. "It has a velociraptor-type skull on the body of this very avian, fully feathered, fluffy kind of form".

This combination of old and new traits, said Eliason, is evidence of mosaic evolution, the concept of different traits evolving independently from each other.

Ladies and gentlemen, we give you the rainbow dinosaur.

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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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