A newly identified species of dinosaur had some unusual features, including a long mane of fur down its back and stiff rod-like structures projecting out from its shoulders.
The dinosaur lived around 110 million years ago, during the Cretaceous period. Dino Frey at the State Museum of Natural History in Karlsruhe, Germany and his colleagues discovered the species while examining slabs of limestone from north-eastern Brazil.
They took high resolution X-ray images of the slabs which revealed the torso of an unknown species of dinosaur, measuring approximately 50 centimetres long.
Most peculiarly, the researchers identified two rod-like structures that stuck out from each shoulder. These 15-centimetre rod-like structures are made from keratin, the same protein in our nails and hair. They were probably used to attract potential mates or even intimidate competition, says Frey.
These structures have not been seen before on dinosaurs. “Totally weird!” says Michael Benton at University of Bristol, UK who was not involved in the study. “The fossil shows amazing preservation of structures other than the skeleton, including decayed remains of the guts and body organs, as well as the feathers and long rod-like structures.”
The team named the dinosaur Ubirajara jubatus, meaning “lord of the spear”, after a name used by the Tupi people indigenous to Brazil. The researchers suspect that the specimen is a young male, given the size of the dinosaur’s spine, but they are unable to confirm this due to the partial fossil.
The fossil also showed a well-preserved long, thick mane of fur running down the creature’s back. The impressive mane measured 11 centimetres at its tallest point. “This is the longest mane ever reported in any dinosaur,” says Frey.
The researchers think the dinosaur could lower its mane when not on display by muscles at the root of the hairs. This would have allowed the dinosaur to streamline its body for speed, as well as to release or capture heat.
Journal reference: Cretaceous Research, DOI: 10.1016/j.cretres.2020.104686
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