Chinese ‘rainbow dinosaur’ had iridescent feathers like hummingbirds

  • Scientists on Monday announced the discovery of a crow-sized, bird-like dinosaur with colorful feathers from northeastern China that lived 161 million years ago during the Jurassic Period.
  • They named it Caihong, the Mandarin word for rainbow.
  • Microscopic structures in the exquisitely preserved, nearly complete fossil unearthed in Hebei Province indicated that it boasted iridescent feathers, particularly on its head, neck and chest, with colors that shimmered and shifted in the light, like those of hummingbirds.
  • Using powerful microscopes, the scientists detected within the feathers the remnants of organelles called melanosomes responsible for pigmentation.
  • Their shape determines the color. Caihong’s feathers had pancake-shaped melanosomes similar to those of hummingbirds with iridescent feathers.
  • Caihong was a two-legged predator with a Velociraptor-like skull and sharp teeth, probably hunting small mammals and lizards. Caihong had fuzzy feathers and pennaceous ones, those that look like writing quills.
  • It is the earliest-known creature with asymmetrical feathers, a trait used by birds to steer when flying.


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