The unusual fossil was found in Brazil and is the first of its kind from South America to show traces of feathers. The study authors think the elaborate plumage might have been used for display and suggested the dinosaur had a refined mating behavior.
“If confirmed, this find will be an important discovery for two reasons: the first feathered dinosaur from southern continents and a bizarre display structure in a relatively early lineage dinosaur,” said Xu Xing, a paleontologist at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology. in Beijing, said via e-mail.
“Similar structures have previously been reported from some very birdlike dinosaurs, but in those cases the ribbon-like structures are attached to the tail, which is normal, but in this new find they are attached to the shoulder, which is unusual,” added Xu, who was not involved in the study, he discovered some of the first feathered dinosaur fossils in China.
The animal is said to have lived about 110 million years ago.
A few birds today have “decorated shoulders,” including the male standard wingbird, but they are rare, said David Martill, a professor at the University of Portsmouth in the United Kingdom and an author of the paper.
“We cannot prove that it is a male, but given the disparity between male and female birds, it seems likely that it was male, as well as young, which is surprising as most of the complex display options are reserved for mature adult males.” he said.
“Given its flamboyance, we can imagine the dinosaur indulging in elaborate dancing to show off its exhibit structures.”
The study was published Monday in the journal Cretaceous Research.
Paleontologists now believe that many dinosaurs had feathers, or feather-like structures, but most of the fossil evidence to date has come from China and Germany.
The fossil was discovered in the Crato Formation in northeastern Brazil by quarries that quarried limestone for paving stones, and it was exceptionally well-preserved.
It shows part of the long, thick mane that runs down the back of the animal. His arms were also covered with fur-like filaments up to the hands. The mane is believed to be controlled by muscles that allow it to be lifted, in the same way a dog raises its hackles or a porcupine raises its spine when threatened, the authors said in a press release.
The dinosaur was named Ubirajara jubatus after a name in the Tupi language that means “lord of the spear” and jubatus from Latin meaning mane or crest.
Some Brazilian paleontologists have objected to the unusual fossil brought from Brazil for study. Taissa Rodrigues Marques da Silva, a professor at the Federal University of Espírito Santo in Brazil, told CNN via email that “the newspaper is controversial because the Brazilian constitution recognizes fossils as cultural heritage.”
The newspaper said the fossil is part of the collection of the Karlsruhe State Museum of Natural History in Germany, and permission was granted for its export in 1995.