Scientists have found a chicken-sized dinosaur to have certain never-seen-before features. The ancient being had long needle-like structures on its shoulders and engaged in showing off like many present day birds do. This dinosaur species can help us understand the relation between the dinosaurs and birds better.
This species was first discovered by palaeontologist Eberhard Frey of the State Museum of Natural History Karlsruhe in Germany in 1995. The fossil was unearthed from Chapada do Araripe in north-eastern Brazil and now experts from the University of Portsmouth have dug up some special features of the age-old reptile. The results of the new study have been published in the journal Cretaceous Research.
The creature is called Ubirajara jubatus, which is indigenous Indian for 'Maned Lord of the Spear'. It has been found that the bird's neck spines were made of keratin, the same protein our nails, hair and skin are made of. These needle-like spines came out of their lower neck and were most likely used to attract mates and protect them from bigger animals. The location of the spines would not have affected their scope of hunting, chasing and other day to day activities. It can be said that modern day peacocks learnt their showing off rituals from the Ubirajara jubatus that lived about 110 million years ago in the Cretaceous period.
The researchers said that this creature is the “first Gondwanan non-avian theropod with preserved filamentous integumentary structures”. It is also the “first non-maniraptoran possessing elaborate integumentary structures that were most likely used for display”. Along with the “slender monofilaments”, the small dinosaurs also had “an impressive mane, as well as a pair of elongate, ribbon-like structures likely emerging from the shoulder”. The paper mentions that such “elaborate integumentary structures” are quite unknown to have been present in any other dinosaur and some elongate display feathers are known to emerge from the carpal region of the male bird-of-paradise.
Paper author and palaeontologist, David Martill of the University of Portsmouth said although they cannot prove the specimen that they received is a male, but “given the disparity between male and female birds, it appears likely the specimen was a male”. Another interesting fact is that it is the fossil of a young being and it is believed that “most complex display abilities are reserved for mature adult males''.
Other paper author and palaeontologist, Robert Smyth explained why the animal had such extravagant features that could make it an easier prey. “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,” he added.