I wonder how paleoartists would have illustrated Caihong juji if the dinosaur had been found at a different time, or if it had been stripped of its feathers. A mid-20th century model probably would have come across like old illustrations of Ornitholestes. An 80s or 90s version would have undoubtedly been a wiry raptor, agile but with scaly skin hewn close to the body. Those are interpretations we'll never see, but that's alright. What we've got is a feathery dinosaur restored in glorious living color.

We're quite used to feathery non-avian dinosaurs by now - maybe even inured to it - but the vision of Caihong by artist Velizar  Simeonovski is stunning. Not only does it depict the 161 million-year-old dinosaur wearing its exquisite plumage, but the detailed scientific work by Dongyu Hu, Julia Clarke, and colleagues have revealed that Caihong had black plumage with bright, iridescent patches around the head, chest, and base of the tail. That's quite a fashion statement, especially when considering that Caihong also had a bony crest atop its head. Clearly dinosaurian flashiness was not a matter of either bony ornaments or striking feathers. It could be both. 

Name: Caihong juji

Meaning: Caihong is Mangarin for rainbow, juji means "big crest."

Age: Jurassic, around 161 million years ago.

Where in the world?: Hebei Province, China. 

What sort of organism?: A paravian dinosaur.

How much of the organism’s is known?: A nearly-complete skeleton and feathers on a slab/counterslab.


Hu, D., Clarke, J., Eliason, C., Qiu, R., Li, Q., Shawkey, M., Zhao, C., D'Alba, L., Jiang, J., Xu, X. 2018. A bony-crested Jurassic dinosaur with evidence of iridescent plumage highlights complexity in early paravian evolution. Nature Communications. doi: 10.1038/s41467-017-02515-y

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