New Scientist imagines a fabulous new look for Edmontosaurus (the platypus of the dinosaur era) based on a new fossil finding – the duck-billed dinosaurs had combs like roosters:
“We’re constantly being surprised by the weird and wonderful array of structures that these animals evolved,” says palaeontologist Phil Bell of the University of England in Australia. “Animals that were entirely innocuous-looking based on their bones could have been really quite flashy. And there’s no reason why similar structures weren’t diverse and widespread among the dinosaur kingdom.”
Previous E. regalis skeletons showed no indication of any kind of crest, Bell says. He and his team found the skeleton in the characteristic death pose, neck arched back toward its spine. While removing the fossil, he put his chisel between the top of the head and the rest of the body, expecting to find only dirt. “Lo and behold, there were bits of skin underneath which never should have been there,” he says.
This fleshy mound sits 20 centimetres tall and spans the skull of E. regalis. CT scans show no internal bone structure.
Like birds, the dinosaurs may have used their crests for social or sexual signalling. The fossil offers no indication of the skin’s colour, though Bell says there’s every reason to suspect that it was brightly coloured.