Did Jim Henson know something we didn’t?

Paleontologists recently discovered a new dinosaur species in China. Caihong juji, a theropod from 160 million years ago, is distinctive because of its feathers, believed to have “glittered with the colors of the rainbow” like modern hummingbirds.

 

ILLUSTRATION BY VELIZAR SIMEONOVSKI, THE FIELD MUSEUM

Although only duck-sized, an artist rendition of the Caihong juji bares a striking resemblance to creatures in Jim Henson’s 1982 fantasy film, The Dark Crystal, doesn’t it?

Mystics and Skeksis from The Dark Crystal

The name Caihong juji is Mandarin for “rainbow with the big crest,” and experts describe the bird-like body and crested head design as most closely resembling those of the Velociraptor.

Caihong lived in forests and may have glided from tree to tree, preying on small mammals and lizards, says study co-author Xing Xu, a paleontologist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. In life, the duck-size carnivore would’ve weighed roughly a pound.

Incredibly well preserved feathers, including the cells that contain pigment, made the color identifications of Caihong juji possible. It’s believed that, much like the tail of a peacock, Caihong juji’s rainbow feathers were likely used to provide social or sexual cues.