Researchers discovered a sneaky little dinosaur which used its coating and color patterns to hide and make itself undetectable by both predators and prey. This dinosaur was called Sinosauropteryx, and lived about 126 million years ago in today’s China. Also, it used to be in the spotlight even before, as it became the first known dinosaur with feathers.
Not all dinosaurs looked like plain reptiles with a single color on their coating, like they are depicted today in children books and art. Just like many of today’s animals, they made use of their patterns for camouflage and for the confusion of the predators. Sinosauropteryx is one of the best examples.
This dinosaur was brought to the public’s attention in 1996, when paleontologists identified it as the first known specimen of the family to be covered in feathers. Then, they found out these feathers had a specific purpose, namely to make it invisible for predators and prey alike. The camouflage skills were strengthened by the color pattern of the animal, which had some stripes across the eyes resembling a bandit mask.
Sinosauropteryx had a color pattern we often see in today’s animals
Sinosauropteryx was about 3 feet long, and weighed 6 pounds. Its size helped it hide quite well, but it evolved these color patterns and feather coating to make sure it would go undetected by both small lizards or bigger dinosaurs. With the help of some high-resolution scanners and some well-preserved fossils, researchers determined the color and distribution of the feathers.
They were surprised to find out the patterns on the feathers resembled many animals known today for their camouflage skills. It sported a striped tail, dark back, and lighter belly, making the body look flat. What stood out was the bandit mask across Sinosauropteryx’s eyes, which was unique among dinosaurs. This could help it get its eyes hidden.
A reconstruction of the color pattern of Sinosauropteryx brought a better insight on the behavior of dinosaurs, things which cannot be found in the analysis of bones. This reveals more about their hunting technique, and shows more resemblances with today’s animals than we would have expected. The study has been published in the journal Current Biology.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons