A new chicken-sized dinosaur with extravagant features used to attract friends or scare enemies was discovered.
Ubirajara jubatus, which lived about 110 million years ago, had intricate plumage including a long fur mane and stiff ribbons protruding from its shoulders.
Researchers said these shoulder ribbons were not scales, skins or feathers and are likely unique to the animal. Each had a small sharp ridge along the middle.
Scientists excavated the sample from two stone slabs and, using X-rays, found previously hidden skeletal elements and soft tissues – including a section of the long, thick mane running along the back of the animal, which was kept almost intact. The arms were also covered with fur-like filaments up to the hands.
The dinosaur was discovered by an international team of scientists led by Professor David Martill and researcher Robert Smyth, both at the University of Portsmouth, and Professor Dino Frey at the State Museum of Natural History, Karlsruhe, Germany, who examined fossil records preserved. at the museum.
Their research has shown that the mane is controlled by muscles that allow it to lift, similar to how a porcupine raises its stings when it feels threatened.
Professor Martill said: “What is especially unusual about the animal is the presence of two very long, probably stiff ribbons on either side of its shoulders that were probably used for display, for friendship, inter-male rivalry or to intimidate enemies.
”We cannot prove that the specimen is male, but considering the difference between male and female birds, it seems likely that the specimen was male, and also young, which is surprising, as most complex display skills are reserved for mature adult males.
“Because of its extravagance, we can imagine that the dinosaur may have dedicated itself to elaborate dancing to show off its screen structures.”
Mr Smyth said the dinosaur’s plumage may have improved its chances of surviving.
He said: “We know that many dinosaurs had bony crests, spines and luxuries that were probably used to show off, but we don’t see them very often in living birds. In birds, crests are made of feathers.
”This little dinosaur kind of understands why this might be the case.
“Bone requires a lot of energy for a body to grow and sustain it, it also weighs and can cause serious injury if broken.
Keratin – the material that consists of hair, feathers and scales – is a much better display alternative for a small animal like this. Keratin costs less to produce a body, it is also lightweight, flexible and can be regularly replaced if damaged.
“Ubirajara is the most primitive known dinosaur possessing integumentary screen structures. It represents a revolution in dinosaur communication, the effects of which we can still see today in living birds.”
Ubirajara jubatus is closely related to the European Jurassic dinosaur Compsognathus – one of the smallest known dinosaurs, which was a fast runner with a long neck and tail, strong hind legs and small forelegs.
The study is published in the scientific journal Cretaceous Research.