The fossil of a chicken-sized Brazilian meat eater that had a mane of spongy filaments and a pair of ribbon-like rigid serpentines emerging from both shoulders is the first feathered dinosaur discovered in the southern hemisphere.
Called Ubirajara jubatus, the predatory boy lived 110 million years ago and probably used his unusual feathers and shoulder mane to lure teammates and drive away rivals, an international team of researchers reported Dec. 13 in Cretaceous Research.
The name Ubirajara means "lord of the spear" & # 39; and comes from the local Tupi indigenous language, while jubatus comes from Latin for crin or crested.
Many dinosaurs from the Gondwana supercontinent, which covered much of the southern half of the planet during the Cretaceous period, were supposed to have feathers, but it is exciting to finally have direct evidence, says study co-author David Martill, a University paleontologist. of Portsmouth in England.
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“These [shoulder] structures are really elaborate; they made this animal look pretty spectacular, just like a bird of paradise looks spectacular [today], ”he says.“ When birds have this kind of feathers, they do all sorts of elegant dances and displays, so this dinosaur looks like it was a little braggart. "
The dinosaur is also interesting because it is a member of the compsognathid group, which branched from the family tree of carnivorous dinosaurs quite early in the group’s history, says Martill. This suggests that the use of feathers for complex display purposes may have a very ancient history within carnivorous dinosaurs.
Max Langer, a paleontologist at the University of São Paulo who did not participate in the research, says it was only a matter of time before a feathered dinosaur was discovered in the Crato Formation in northeastern Brazil, where the fossil came from or around. rocks of the Araripe Plateau. Here, “fossilization is pristine,” with many specimens recording even details such as muscle fibers and blood vessels, he said.
Other featherless dinosaurs have been found in the region. And a fossil bird with feathers, described in 2015, showed that feather conservation on rocks was possible.
Langer adds that it is a pity that a major fossil like this ends up in Germany instead of remaining in Brazil and that Brazilian scientists were not involved in this research. "The fossils found here are part of the Brazilian paleontological heritage, so it's not good that this material is out of the country," he argues.
The fossil was probably found by local stonemasons who extract slabs from the limestone with fossils from the Crato Formation, says study co-author Eberhard Frey, a geoscientist at the State Museum of Natural History in Karlsruhe, Germany.
In the early 1990s, the fossil arrived at the paleontological museum in the city of Crato, in the state of Ceará, Brazil. Here it caught the attention of Frey and Martill, who applied for permission from local officials to export the fossil to Germany in 1995, where they studied it in recent years and where it remains today.