Thursday, January 28, 2010

Dear Melanosomes: Thanks for Fossilizing!

Over the last 24 hours, the interweb has gone all aglow with the announcement that paleontologists believe they have determined the color of the feathers on a small chinese theropod. Dr. Michael Benton and his team at Bristol University examined the fossilized feathers of Sinosauropteryx and found them to contain cells with pigment-bearing organelles (check out Benton's video here). What's more, the structure of those organelles indicate that the feathers were rufous colored. I'm reminded of the brown thrasher who lurks around my yard in the summer.

This is very cool, but it's important to note that we still don't have a comprehensive idea of how exactly melanosomes - even in living birds - relate directly to color. And, of course, this will only allow us to "color in" dinosaurs whose feathers were preserved by fossilization. Still. Awesome. And Carl Zimmer, who has been covering this since the first analysis of fossilized feathers was made public last fall, promises us more cool news to come.

Illustration by Chuang Zhao and Lida Xing. From Bristol University.

Read more:
Bristol University press release
Archosaur Musings
Dinosaur Tracking
NY Times

1 comment:

  1. All kinds of awesome! We missed this development in 2010. Thank you for the video and article links; this is just rocking our world right now.


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