A large flightless bird has been unearthed in China and Palaeontologists have looked to the cassowary to explain the structure of the skeletal fossil found. The Corythorapto jacobsi, found in China is a new strain of oviraptor, which has a similar looking head crest to our Aussie cassowary.
The cassowary, a giant bird that stalks around the Daintree rainforest in Northern Queensland and Papua New Guinea, shows similar traits to its prehistoric ancestor. Their large flesh-tearing claws, naked blue heads and the casque crest on the top of the giant flightless bird’s head are a dangerous reminder of the bird’s aggressive demeanour.
It is the bony crest atop the cassowary’s head which most intrigued palaeontologists. The newly uncovered dinosaur in China exhibits a similar structure. By comparing the dinosaurs crest to that of the cassowary, they will attempt to unravel the mystery surrounding the dinosaur’s structure and gain valuable insight into the workings of its existence.
Image: Oviraptor, shutterstock
In the new Scientific Reports, the researchers compared the fossil casque and a cassowary’s casque. The results revealed a similar infrastructure of microtrabeculae webbing in both samples. The dinosaur’s crest showed slightly larger holes in the honeycomb like structure. With such similarities, researchers were able to speculate as to what the dinosaur used its crest for.
There are many possible uses for the cassowary’s crest, but the most popular theory is that it is sociosexual. The bony, keratin structure on top of the flightless bird’s head helps resonate the low-frequency sounds it makes in courtship. The size, colour and general physical appearance of the crest also entice sexual partners.
This is the seventh oviraptor discovered in China to date. The find provides a particularly valuable look into the ecosystem of the Late Cretaceous period.