Masked dinosaur hid from preda­tors and prey

The Commercial Appeal - - Front Page -

USA TO­DAY

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.

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