Chicken-Sized Dinosaur With Long Fur Mane And Other Bizarre Features Discovered By Researchers
Scientists have been left astounded by a new species of dinosaur that was the size of a chicken and had bizarre features such as a mane of long fur.
The discovery was made by a team of researchers co-led by the University of Portsmouth’s Professor David Martill and researcher Robert Smyth, along with Professor Dino Frey at the State Museum of Natural History in Karlsruhe, Germany.
The fossil had been authorised by the Brazilian authorities for export some time ago, but it wasn’t until the scientists were studying it as part of the museum’s collection that they identified the new species.
Dubbed Ubirajara jubatus, the species is thought to have lived approximately 110 million years ago, in what is now Brazil.
Martill spoke about some of the more unusual aspects of the animal, particularly ‘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’.
The ‘ribbons’ appear to be unique to this particular species as they are not scales, fur or feathers. They were positioned to ensure free movement of the arms and legs, meaning they wouldn’t have limited the animal’s ability to hunt or send signals.
We know lots of dinosaurs had bony crests, spines and frills that were probably used for display but we don’t see these very often in living birds. In birds, crests are made of feathers.
This little dinosaur provides some insight into why this might be the case.
Ubirajara is the most primitive known dinosaur to possess integumentary display structures. It represents a revolution in dinosaur communication, the effects of which we can still see today in living birds.
As well as the ribbons, the animal had a ‘long, thick mane’ running down its back, part of which was nearly intact on the fossil. A statement released by the team said the arms were covered in ‘fur-like filaments down to the hands’.
The scientists believe the mane is thought to have been controlled by muscles which allowed it to be raised in a similar way a dog raises its hackles.
Martill said the features are ‘extravagant’ for such a small animal, and admitted they are ‘not at all what we would predict if we only had the skeleton preserved’
Why adorn yourself in a way that makes you more obvious to both your prey and to potential predators?
The truth is that for many animals, evolutionary success is about more than just surviving, you also have to look good if you want to pass your genes on to the next generation.
The scientists have been unable to determine whether the fossil belonged to a male or female, but based on what we know about modern birds they believe it was a male.
Martill pointed out that modern male birds are known to have more elaborate plumage and displays which can be used to attract mates. He explained: ‘Ubirajara shows us that this tendency to show off is not a uniquely avian characteristic, but something that birds inherited from their dinosaur ancestors.’
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.
Given its flamboyance, we can imagine that the dinosaur may have indulged in elaborate dancing to show off its display structures.
When the dinosaur wasn’t in ‘display mode’, the scientists said it could lower its mane close to the skin to become more streamlined, allowing for ‘faster hunts or escapes’.
Scientists were able to build a clear picture of the dinosaur using x-ray after Frey excavated the fossil from the two slabs of stone in which it lay.
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CreditsUniversity of Portsmouth
University of Portsmouth