An article published in the magazine “Scientific Reports” describes a research on a feathered dinosaur that shows not the usual generic similarities to birds but a remarkable resemblance to the cassowary with a crest on its head and long legs. A team of paleontologists led by Lü Junchang called it Corythoraptor jacobsi and it was a dinosaur belonging to the oviraptorid family that lived in the late Cretaceous, between 100 and 66 million years ago, in today’s southern China.
An almost complete skeleton of Corythoraptor jacobsi was found in the area of the Chinese city of Ganzhou, which allowed to estimate that the specimen was a young adult, at least 8 years old when it died, about 165 cm tall. The crest on its head, about 15 centimeters long, and other physical characteristics make it similar to a cassowary, one of the largest birds existing today after ostrich and emu.
Corythoraptor jacobsi is the dinosaur that shows the greatest similarities to a species existing today, however they’re very distant relatives. Birds descended from a family of dinosaurs other than oviraptorids but starting from various similar characteristics these two species had a converging evolution.
In the same area of China, other oviraptorids were found. Among them, the most similar to Corythoraptor jacobsi was the species called Huanansaurus ganzhouensis, discovered in 2015 by a team that included Lü Junchang, who led the study on Corythoraptor jacobsi.
The discovery of this new species indicates a remarkable diversification of the oviraptorids living in that area because Corythoraptor jacobsi is only one of several species discovered of seven different genera. The various species could have occupied different ecological niches specializing in a different way over time.
In the Corythoraptor jacobsi’s image above you can see its skeleton (a) with its skull’s details (c), a drawing of its skeleton (b) and a skeleton reconstruction that shows its crest similar to that of the cassowary. Various species of dinosaurs had a crest, not only oviraptorids, which could have various functions, from communication to sexual lure.
China confirms being a place where there were many species of more or less bird-like dinosaurs in the Cretaceous. In the Corythoraptor jacobsi’s case there’s a remarkable resemblance even if a well-versed eye would notice some strangeness in this dinosaur if he saw it today. Its discovery is very interesting and could help to better understand the evolution of oviraptorids.