Washington, December 16
About 110 million years ago along the shores of an ancient lagoon in present-day northeastern Brazil, a chicken-sized Cretaceous two-legged dinosaur lived to hunt for insects and possibly small vertebrates such as frogs and lizards.
Inside, it was normal, with a skeleton similar to many small dinosaurs from the earlier Jurassic period, scientists said Tuesday. On the outside, it was anything but.
This dinosaur, named Ubirajara jubatus, possessed a mane of hair-like structures while also boasting two absolutely unique, rigid, ribbon-shaped features likely made of keratin – the same substance that makes up hair and nails – protruding from its shoulders. .
“There are many other strange dinosaurs, but this one is different from all of them,” said paleobiology professor David Martill of the University of Portsmouth in England, who helped lead the study published in the journal Cretaceous Research.
Ubirajara’s hair-like structures appear to be a rudimentary form of feathers called protofeather. It was not real hair, a characteristic exclusively of mammals. Many dinosaurs had feathers.
In fact, birds evolved from small feathered dinosaurs around 150 million years ago.
“He probably looked hairy rather than feathered from a distance,” Martill said.
“It is likely that it had hair-like bumps over much of its body, but they are only preserved along the neck, back and arms. The ones on the back are very long and give it a kind of mane unique to dinosaurs.” Ubirajara’s ribbon-like structures may have been used for display, perhaps to attract mates or intimidate opponents or in male rivalry, Martill added. Such displays are often done by male animals – think of the elaborate tail feathers of a peacock – leading Martill to make a “plausible guess” that this Ubirajara individual was male.
“The ribbons that appear to come from the shoulders look like nothing I’ve ever seen in nature before,” said Martill.
Though it’s impossible to know from the fossil, Martill said Ubirajara may have been colored.
“I bet it was,” he added. – Reuters