How many dinosaurs are there? People ask me this from time to time and it’s a harder question than you might think. Do they mean how many individual critters trod the Earth or how many different species of dinosaurs were there? Those aren’t easy questions either, given that they reached every single continent, including Antarctica. Also, vast areas were not conducive to preservation. While we know quite a bit about some species in certain regions and time periods, more are discovered every year. In fact, dozens of “new” species are announced, named, analyzed, and/or sketched every year.
Yes, I said dozens, which means I can’t keep up! However, I can focus on some neat new discoveries. With that, I am launching a regular (here’s hoping!) new feature of Blogging the Mesozoic: a monthly post about a neat new discovery. Here’s the first one:
Ubirajara jubatus hails from Brazil. I picked it because South American dinosaurs simply don’t get nearly enough love despite being some of the largest dinosaurs ever found. But not this one, which is about the size of a turkey. It’s a carnivorous compagnathid from the Crato Formation 110-120 million years ago.
What makes it cool?
- It’s the first South American non-avian dinosaur fossil to show indisputable evidence of fluffy feathers, or perhaps proto-feathers. Plus it had spike-like projections from its shoulders.
- The coloration is rather a guess, but it might have been as brilliantly plumed as parrots or macaws, Or possibly it was more sedate. Until we have traces of pigmentation, it’s hard to say.
- We don’t know which direction those stiff filaments pointed. Here’s a neat article with illustrations as to some possibilities. I’m fascinated by how paleontologists and illustrators work together to develop various alternatives from crushed and incomplete fossilized remains.
- The name combines the indigenous Tupi word for “lord of the spear” with the Latin word for “maned” or “crested.”
What makes it controversial?
The specimen was exported from Brazil to Germany for study in 1995, where it still remains. The legality of the export is under investigation.