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Dinosaur Had Features 'Like Nothing Seen in Nature'

Flashy birds like the peacock descended from dinosaurs like this one
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 17, 2020 10:20 AM CST

(Newser) – How bizarre were the features of a dinosaur that roamed modern-day Brazil some 110 million years ago? They're "like nothing I have seen in nature before," David Martill, lead author of a study of the creature, tells the Guardian. "There are plenty of other strange dinosaurs, but this one is unlike any of them." The beaked dinosaur was about the size of a chicken, with two legs and a long tail sporting a mane of protofeathers, a form of early feathers that might've looked like hair. Stranger still "is the presence of two very long, probably stiff ribbons on either side of its shoulders," Martill explains in a release. These protrusions—likely made of keratin, the same material as your fingernails—lend to the dinosaur's name, Ubirajara jubatus. The first part comes from a Tupi name for "lord of the spear," while the second refers to a Latin term for "maned," per Science News.

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Martill expects the dino "had hair-like protofeathers over much of its body ... the ones on its back are very long and give it a sort of mane that is unique for dinosaurs." The dinosaur probably could've raised the mane in display. The shoulder protrusions would've added to the show, which may have involved "elaborate dancing," either to attract mates or intimidate rivals, say researchers, who assume the analyzed specimen was male. That specimen was brought to a museum in Brazil about 30 years ago; in 1995 Martill and a colleague requested it be sent to Germany, where it's been studied since. "It represents a revolution in dinosaur communication, the effects of which we can still see today in living birds" like peacocks and birds of paradise, says study co-author Robert Smyth. Indeed, "Ubirajara shows us that this tendency to show off is … inherited" from dinosaurs. (Read more dinosaurs stories.)

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