January 16, 2018 - 18:39 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Despite its fearsome, Velociraptor-like skull, a 161-million-year-old dinosaur the size of a duck would have been a shining, shimmering and splendid sight to behold — mostly because it sported gleaming, iridescent feathers that were rainbow-colored, a new study finds, according to Live Science.
Iridescent feathers glistened on the dinosaur's head, wings and tail, according to an analysis of the shape and structure of the creature's melanosomes, the parts of cells that contain pigment.
"The preservation of this dinosaur is incredible — we were really excited when we realized the level of detail we were able to see on the feathers," study co-researcher Chad Eliason, a postdoctoral researcher at the Field Museum in Chicago, said in a statement.
A farmer in northeastern China's Hebei Province discovered the fossil, and the Paleontological Museum of Liaoning in China acquired the find in 2014. After discovering its iridescence and noting the unique bony crest on top of the dinosaur's head, researchers gave it a colorful name — Caihong juji — which is Mandarin for "rainbow with the big crest."
The scientists discovered the dinosaur's iridescence and colorful nature by examining its feathers using a scanning electron microscope (SEM). Incredibly, the SEM analysis showed imprints of melanosomes in the fossil. The organic pigment once contained in the melanosomes is long gone, but the structure of the cell parts revealed the feathers' original colors, the researchers said. That's because differently shaped melanosomes reflect light in different ways.