A Chinese dinosaur from more than 160 million years ago had a rainbow-colored frill around its neck.

The newly discovered fossil of the bird-like creature has been dubbed Caihong juji — Mandarin for “rainbow” and “big crest,” a tribute to the colorful feathers and to a bony protrusion on its face that could have been a way it attracted mates. A study in the journal Nature Communications says the rainbow creature from the Jurassic period, close to the size of a chicken, was part of a group of dinosaurs that walked on their hind legs and had long wings.

Living bird species are descended from this group, the Paravians, which are within the larger family of theropod dinosaurs.

Scientists have an idea about the colors of the feathers because of cellular structures called melanosomes that create pigment. The shapes of those melanosomes were preserved in some of this dinosaur’s feathers, according to the study, and the team analyzed them to find that they were comparable to the kind that give hummingbirds their iridescent, rainbow-colored feathers.

rainbow-dinosaur Scientists found a new bird-like dinosaur species that had rainbow feathers around its neck. Photo: Illustration by Velizar Simeonovski, The Field Museum, for UT Austin Jackson School of Geosciences

Part of what makes Caihong interesting is its combination of features — they are reminiscent of older and newer animals. The bony crest represents a more ancient dinosaur feature, the University of Texas at Austin noted, while the iridescence, which could have helped it signal to potential mates, is newer.

There are other elements that are more odd, like the presence of asymmetrical feathers on its tail rather than its wingtips, where they appear today to help birds fly. The university said Caihong is the first known appearance of these asymmetrical feathers but their placement hints to scientists that the world’s earliest bird species did not fly in the same way modern birds do.

“This suggests that controlling [flight] might have first evolved with tail feathers during some kind of aerial locomotion,” co-author Xing Xu said in the statement.

Overall, the extinct species had a strange look to it.

“It has a rather velociraptor-looking low and long skull with this fully feathered, shaggy kind of plumage and a big fan tail,” researcher Julia Clarke said in the university statement. “It is really cool … or maybe creepy looking depending on your perspective.”

caihong_skull Scientists found the fossil of a new bird-like dinosaur species that had rainbow feathers around its neck. Photo: UT Austin