A chicken-sized prehistoric dinosaur sheds new light on bird development

Well-preserved remains offered many hints as to what the creature would look like. BOB NICHOLLS / PALEOCREATIONS.COM 2020

Scientists may have made progress in understanding the origins of how birds show their feathers after acquiring a previously unrecognized chicken-sized breed with long and stiff fur projections in a collection of specimens at the State Museum of Natural History, in Karlsruhe, Germany.

An international team, led by the museum’s Dino Frey and David Martill and Robert Smyth from the University of Portsmouth in England, discovered what has been described as one of the most elegant prehistoric creatures ever known.

The fossil came from the Creation of Crato in Brazil, a shallow inland sea dating back about 110 million years, and was named ubirajara jubatus, with ubirajara meaning lord of the spears in the language of the Tupi natives , a description of its long spikes. , and jubatus from the Latin word meaning crested.

“What is particularly unusual about the beast is the presence of two very long, perhaps stiff ribbons on each side of the shoulders that may have been used for presentation, to attract a mate, interpersonal conflict or to to intimidate an enemy, “Martill said.

“Given its deliciousness, we can imagine that the dinosaur may have engaged in complex dance to showcase its display structures. “

The team’s findings were published in the scientific journal Cretaceous Research, and Smyth said the ribbon-style projections were particularly interesting because they weren’t blades, fur or what would be seen as feathers, and so raises many questions, showing contact with modern creatures, such as peacocks.

“These are such amazing traits for such a small animal and not at all what we would have predicted if we only had the skeleton preserved,” he said.

“Why decorate yourself in a way that makes you more visible to both your prey and your intended predators? The fact is that evolutionary success is about much more than just survival, it must you also look good if you want to pass on your genes on to the next generation.

“Today’s birds are famous for their intricate plumage and displays that are used to attract mates. The peacock… is a textbook example of this. Ubirajara shows us that the bias is not this shows off as a special bird species, but something inherited by birds from their dinosaur ancestors. “

Large portions of the sample were almost complete, which is very helpful for analysis. A thick mane ran down the creature’s back, and is believed to have been controlled by muscles allowing it to lift, in a manner similar to how a porcupine reacts when frightened. . Reducing the mane will allow easy movement through the basement.

“Any creature with movable hair or feathers Tha has a great advantage in smoothing out the shape of the body for faster hunting or escape but also for trapping or releasing heat,” said Martill.