Science!: Red Mohawked Dinos, Photons and Anti-Hunger Pills

Lauren Admire | 1 Feb 2010 16:30

Dino Rocks Red Mohawk, Red and White Tail Feathers

For all the progress paleontologists have made in reconstructing the look and feel of a dinosaur, there's still one thing that they've been unsure of - what color was its skin? Fossils are mainly collections of mineralized bones - no signs of color or pigmentation typically survive millions of years worth of fossilization. Very few fossils are found with preserved skin or preserved feathers. But a team of British and Chinese scientists have gotten lucky. For the first time ever, they've have found a way to unlock the color patterns of some of the first feathery dinosaurs.

The dinosaur is called Sinosauropteryx, and it has a red mohawk, with a red and white striped tail. When the fossil was unearthed in China, Mike Benton, a researcher on the project, found that they shared something else in common with birds, besides their tail feathers. Inside a preserved feather were structures called melanosomes, which provide the color pigments in current bird feathers. The color of the feather depends on the shape of the melanosome: "A ginger-haired person would have more spherical melanosomes, and a black-haired or grey-haired person would have more of a sausage-shaped structure," stated Benton.

The team found both spherical and sausage-shaped melanosomes in the ancient feathers, which mean that they would have grey and red stripes. These elaborately-colored feathers were likely used in courtship displays, similar to how colorful modern day birds use their feathers.

Source: Discover


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