Thursday, February 4, 2010

Anchiornis Gets Gussied Up

Um... awesome. An international team of researchers have examined the fossilized melanosomes of Anchiornis huxleyi, and this is the result.

I already dug you, Anchiornis. But now you're definitely in my top ten. Yale's press release notes a resemblance to the Spangled Hamburg chicken, but I definitely see a Pileated Woodpecker. Critics of last week's announcement of the orange-feathered Sinosauropteryx noted that there just wasn't enough data behind the findings. You can hear a bit of scientific one-upsmanship when a member of the team behind this new study notes how much more careful and thorough they were with Anchiornis, building an accurate picture of the plumage covering the entire animal.

I must say, I kind of wish the Anchiornis color would have come out first. The little troodontid is already one of the most important fossils in recent history, with its implications for our understanding of bird origins, and it's frankly prettier than Sinosauropteryx. C'est la vie. This is wonderful stuff, and I'll take it as it comes.

Carl Zimmer has a written a terrific story at the New York Times and you can check out a 3-D model of the pretty little critter Nat Geo, which better make damn sure to put A. huxleyi on its next cover.

This has been a great year so far!

UPDATED: Added more thoughts, sorted out some of the details, and added links.

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