Masked dinosaur hid from predators and prey
It was a Halloween costume, dinosaur-style.
New research reveals how a small, feathered dinosaur about 126 million years ago used its color patterning — including a bandit-mask-like stripe across its eyes — to avoid detection from its predators (like the TRex) and prey (small lizards).
“Far from all being the lumbering prehistoric gray beasts of past children’s books, at least some dinosaurs showed sophisticated color patterns to hide from and confuse predators, just like today’s animals,” said study lead author Fiann Smithwick, a paleontologist at the University of Bristol in the U.K.
The small dinosaur, called Sinosauropteryx, was 3 feet long, weighed about 6 pounds, and lived in present-day China.
Scientists used high-resolution cameras to examine three well-preserved specimens of the creature. They were able to plot out how dark pigmented feathers were distributed across the body, which revealed some distinctive color patterns.
The bandit-mask camouflage had not been seen in dinosaurs before. In modern birds, it helps to hide their eyes from would-be predators.