Forget scaly T. rex. Feathered dinosaurs are all the rage, and now we're meeting the flamboyant rock star of the feathery dino world.
Caihong juji is Mandarin for "rainbow with the big crest." It's an apt description of a newly discovered small dinosaur that lived in China 161 million years ago during the Jurassic Period.
An international team of researchers from Shenyang Normal University in China and the University of Texas at Austin studied the dino fossil, which was discovered by a Chinese farmer in 2014.
"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," Chad Eliason, one of the study's authors who is now a researcher at The Field Museum in Chicago, said in a statement.
The researchers determined the dinosaur's colorful characteristics by inspecting imprints left by melanosomes, which The Field Museum describes as the "part of cells that contain pigments." The melanosomes resemble those found in rainbow hummingbird feathers today.
Caihong juji was about the size of a chicken, and scientists believe its neck feathers were not only colorful but also likely iridescent, which would have made it quite the looker. As with some modern-day birds, the flashy appearance may have helped with attracting mates.
"It has a rather velociraptor-looking low and long skull with this fully feathered, shaggy kind of plumage and a big fan tail. It is really cool … or maybe creepy looking depending on your perspective," Julia Clarke, a University of Texas professor, paleontologist and one of the study's authors, said in a statement.
Dongyu Hu, a professor in the College of Paleontology at the Shenyang Normal University, led the study. The researchers published their findings in the journal Nature Communications on Monday.