Scientists say they’ve identified a new, unusual chicken-sized dinosaur with flamboyant features never before seen in the fossil record.
The new species, Ubirajara jubatus, lived about 110 million years ago in what is now northeastern Brazil and donned a mane of long fur down its back and stiff ribbons — likely made of keratin — protruding out and back from its shoulders, according to a study published in the journal Cretaceous Research.
Researchers predict the creature’s ribbon-like features may have been used to attract mates or intimidate adversaries, similar to a peacock’s feathers.
“What is especially unusual about the beast is the presence of two very long, probably stiff ribbons on either side of its shoulders that were probably used for display, for mate attraction, inter-male rivalry or to frighten off foe,” David Martill, a professor at the University of Portsmouth and an author of the paper, said.
“We cannot prove that the specimen is a male, but given the disparity between male and female birds, it appears likely the specimen was a male, and young, too, which is surprising given most complex display abilities are reserved for mature adult males,” Martille said. “Given its flamboyance, we can imagine that the dinosaur may have indulged in elaborate dancing to show off its display structures.”
The fossil was found in two slabs of stone, and researchers used X-rays to discover previously hidden skeletal elements and soft tissue, allowing scientists to build a clear picture of the animal’s features.
A section of the long, thick mane running down the creature’s back was preserved nearly intact. The study found the dinosaur’s mane was likely controlled by muscles that allowed it to be raised, similarly to how a porcupine raises its spines when threatened. The arms of the animal were also covered in fur-like filaments down to its hands.
Researchers say Ubirajara jubatus is also the first non-avian dinosaur found in South America with feathers.
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