Corythoraptor jacobsi
Corythoraptor jacobsi, the cassowary-like dinosaur.Zhao Chuang

A dinosaur with a head crest very reminiscent of the cassowary - a large turkey-like bird - has been discovered in China.

The cassowary is a large and flightless creature found in north-east Australia and New Guinea. A newly-discovered species of dinosaur was found in Jiangxi Province, China. Yet the two have a remarkable similarity – a large and conspicuous bony crest rising up from the top of the skull.

As well as the crest, the dinosaur had a very long neck – longer than its forelimbs and almost as long as its back legs. It's thought to have been a feathered dinosaur, although most likely flightless. The specimen found was a juvenile, thought to be about 8 years old at the time of its death.

The dinosaur lived in the late Cretaceous period, which ended 66 million years ago when an asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs. It was relatively well preserved, with most of the skull remaining intact.

The crest of the newly-discovered dinosaur, named Corythoraptor jacobsi, is also thought to have done a similar job to the modern cassowary's crest: namely display, communication and, perhaps most importantly, acting as a show of how fit and attractive the dinosaur was when it came to the mating season.

It's less likely that the dinosaur's crest was used for combat with predators or prey, as it was probably too fragile, and may have been slightly bendy.

Cassowaries are among the heaviest birds alive today, after the ostrich. The crest of modern cassowaries is fully of a fine, bubble-like mesh of bone, encased in a layer of keratin. The internal structure of the crested dinosaur seems to be very similar to that of the cassowary.

The discovery adds to the impressive diversity of dinosaurs unearthed in the Ganzhou region of China. The area is home to fossils of dinosaurs that died tragically trapped in mud, and some of the earliest dinosaurs with fully aerodynamic feathers.

The discovery is detailed in a study in the journal Scientific Reports.

Cassowary
A cassowary - not the first creature to sport a bony crest of this kind.albertstraub / Flickr