Flamboyant Compsognathid Discovered in Brazil

Recently, scientists in Brazil made one of 2020’s most exciting paleontological discoveries! A fantastically preserved specimen of filamentous structures and a partial skeleton has made shockwaves worldwide as one of the world’s most unique dinosaurs ever to exist is discovered.

This dinosaur is called “Ubirajara jubatus”, and it was a compsognathid that lived during the Early Cretaceous. Ubirajara was found in Brazil’s Crato Formation, and its name directly translates from the Tupi language, as “Lord of the Spear”.

My own reconstruction of Ubirajara, remaining fairly speculative yet safely within the realm of possibility.

What makes Ubirajara such a fascinating discovery is the fact that it has 2 protruding filamentous structures on each side of its body, and these structures are unlike anything else ever found in any other dinosaur! The existence of these structures says a lot about just how well the dinosaurs were doing before the K/T Extinction event, as this level of biodiversity would require great success to emerge. These filamentous structures also are a great way to extrapolate about Ubirajara’s social life. Perhaps, like so many modern birds, these structures could be erected in order to impress members of the opposite sex. I find it fascinating to imagine one of these animals engaging in a courtship display, going all out with its fantastic plumage in order to seem impressive to a potential mate.

The holotype of Ubirajara jubatus preserved as slab and counter slab. Image credit: Smyth et al., doi: 10.1016/j.cretres.2020.104686.

Besides the exceptionally unique filamentous structures on its side, we know for a fact that Ubirajara was a very fluffy animal! In the preserved specimen, a large mane was also fossilized. Ubirajara would have been exceptionally similar to modern birds-of-paradise in terms of length of plumage, and this feature serves to put in perspective the similarities between modern birds and their ancestors.

Living in the Aptian stage of the Early Cretaceous of the Crato Formation, Ubirajara would have inhabited a region with lush tropical jungles and frequent rainstorms. Abundant in this region were a vast variety of insects, arachnids, fish, amphibians, and squamates. Ubirajara would have had no problem dining on any of those! Accompanying Ubirajara were spinosaurids, early birds, (enantiornithines and avialans), crocodylimorphs, and a stunning array of pterosaurs, ranging from ornithocheirids to tapejarids! Ubirajara adds to an already rich picture of a thriving prehistoric ecosystem.


  • Robert S.H. Smyth¬†et al. A maned theropod dinosaur from Gondwana with elaborate integumentary structures.¬†Cretaceous Research, published online December 13, 2002; doi: 10.1016/j.cretres.2020.104686

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