Scientists discovered a “rainbow” dinosaur fossil in northeastern China and determined the Jurassic Period creature had colorful and iridescent feathers, according to a Monday Reuters report.
The crow-sized, bird-like creature had bright iridescent feathers and lived in China some 161 million years ago. It’s been named Caihong, the Mandarin word for rainbow.
By observing microscopic structures in an amazingly preserved fossil, scientists revealed the creature’s colourful plumage.
The feathers would have been particularly vibrant on its head, neck and chest, with colours like those seen in hummingbird feathers. The discovery was made in the Chinese province of Hebei and it ‘suggests a more colourful Jurassic world than we previously imagined,’ said evolutionary biologist Chad Eliason.
Much of the rainbow dinosaur’s body had dark feathers, but ribbon-like iridescent feathers covered its head and neck. While it possessed many bird-like characteristics, researchers doubted whether it could actually fly. Its plumage could have attracted mates while also providing insulation.
Caihong was a two-legged predator with a Velociraptor-like skull and sharp teeth, which probably helped it hunt small mammals and lizards. It had crests above its eyes that looked like bony eyebrows. It’s the earliest known creature with asymmetrical feathers, a trait used by birds to steer when flying.
Caihong’s were on its tail, suggesting tail feathers, not arm feathers, were first utilized for aerodynamic locomotion.