A dinosaur with “hair” and “ribbons” excited scientists

About 110 million years ago, a two-legged Cretaceous dinosaur hunted living insects and perhaps small vertebrates like frogs and lizards in chicken chalk on the shores of an ancient lagoon in what is now northeastern Brazil.

A model of an ‘Aratasaurus museunacionali’ dinosaur in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on July 10th. Photo: VCG

Inside, it was common, with a skeleton that resembled many small dinosaurs from the previous Jurassic period, scientists said Tuesday. Outwardly it was anything but.

This dinosaur is called Ubirajara Jubatus, possessed a mane with hair-like structures and two extremely unique, stiff, ribbon-like features, likely made of keratin – the same substance that hair and fingernails are made of – protruding from the shoulders.

“There are many other weird dinosaurs out there, but this one is unlike any other,” said David Martill, professor of paleobiology at the University of Portsmouth, England, who led the study published in Cretaceous Research. Ubirajara’s hair-like structures appear to be a rudimentary form of feathers called proto-feathers. This wasn’t real hair, an exclusively mammalian trait. Many dinosaurs had feathers. In fact, birds evolved from small feathered dinosaurs about 150 million years ago.

“It probably looked more hairy than feather-light from a distance,” said Martill. “It probably had hair-like proto-feathers over much of its body, but they’re only preserved along its neck, back and arms. The ones on its back are very long and give it a kind of mane that is unique to dinosaurs.”

Ubirajara’s ribbon-like structures may have been used for display.
Newspaper headline: Scientists discover dinosaurs with headbands