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Earth Science

Dinosaur Feather Color Discovered 219

Posted by timothy
from the horsefeathers-still-a-mystery dept.
anzha writes "Do you remember being a kid and told we'd never know what colors the dinosaurs were? For at least some, that's no longer true. Scientists working in the UK and China have closely examined the fossils of multiple theropods and actually found the colors and patterns that were present in the fossilized proto-feathers. So far, the answer is orange, black and white in banded and other patterns. The work also thoroughly thrashes the idea that fossils might not be feathers, but collagen fibers instead. If this holds up, Birds Are Dinosaurs. Period. And colorful!"
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Dinosaur Feather Color Discovered

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  • These Dinos are the world's biggest Pheasants! What I wouldn't do for my shotgun!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @04:40PM (#30925250)

    TFA explicitly states that:

     

    "... we cannot predict specific colors in fossils, maybe except black. So we are still far from putting colors on dinosaurs."

    The "orange, white and black" colours are from an illustration at the top of an article, and a theory about a different dinosaur that definitely had stripes (possibly white and black ones.)

    Is it only the sensationalist submissions that get through, or only the sensationalists who submit?

    • by BitZtream (692029) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @05:00PM (#30925664)

      You must be new here.

      If the post is from Timothy, you can pretty much assume the only correct part is the name of the person that submitted it, and in my experience, he gets that wrong too.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by mr_lizard13 (882373)
        That's a fairly sensational accusation.
      • by alexo (9335)

        If the post is from Timothy, you can pretty much assume the only correct part is the name of the person that submitted it, and in my experience, he gets that wrong too.

        Wait, I was under the impression that the distinction was reserved to kdawson.

        Can somebody post the definitive guide to /. editors?

        • No kdawson articles will tell you that something terrible (which didn't actually happen, as the first post will point out, with citations) is entirely the fault of the conservatives (who opposed it when it looked as if it was going to happen, because they're not actually stupid). At least, that's vaguely what I remember before I blocked him from the front page. The quality of Slashdot stories went up quite a bit after doing that. I wonder if we can get Taco to publish what percentage of /. readers block
    • by BobMcD (601576) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @05:04PM (#30925772)

      You cut that WAY too short:

      But while Vinther is convinced by the melanosomes that Zhang has found, he's more skeptical about the inferences about colour. "Saying that Sinosauropteryx was rufous-red, based on one sample is a stretch," he says. We don't even know how melanosome distributions in modern birds lead to specific colours. "Without this knowledge quantified, we cannot predict specific colors in fossils, maybe except black. So we are still far from putting colors on dinosaurs."

      Zhang feels we can, whereas Vinther is "more skeptical". So unless Zhang is a 'sensationalist submitter', your reading comprehension isn't so hot.

      This part was further up:

      Melanosomes are packed with melanins, pigments that range from drab blacks and greys to reddish-brown and yellow hues. Their presence in dinosaur filaments has allowed Fucheng Zhang to start piecing together the colours of these animals, millions of years after their extinction. For example, Zhang thinks that the small predator Sinosauropteryx had "chestnut to reddish-brown" stripes running down its tail and probably a similarly coloured crest down its back. Meanwhile, the early bird Confuciusornis had a variety of black, grey, red and brown hues, even within a single feather.

      Its a good article. You should read it again.

      • by Rei (128717) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @05:29PM (#30926232) Homepage

        Vinther also has a good point about feathers being capable of diffraction. For example, green parrots have no green pigment; the green is the result of the natural diffraction grating formed by the feathers. If you give a parrot a bath or shower, its green feathers turn a dark grayish brown. By only looking at the pigments, you'd think that a green parrot would actually be a dark grayish brown.

        Still, it's very interesting work. Additionally, while it seems unlikely that we will ever be possible to 100% recreate a dinosaur, there are a lot of individual lines of data -- morphological characteristics, the DNA of their descendants, the remains of broken-down proteins in the fossils, microscopy of fossilized cells, etc -- that should allow us to come pretty close, as biological science continues to mature.

      • by Red Flayer (890720) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @05:47PM (#30926592) Journal

        Meanwhile, the early bird Confuciusornis had a variety of black, grey, red and brown hues, even within a single feather.

        Confuciusornis say, man who guess dinosaur feather color knows dinosaurs ex-tint.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Red Flayer (890720)

        Meanwhile, the early bird Confuciusornis had a variety of black, grey, red and brown hues, even within a single feather.

        Ah ha! Now we know for sure which dinosaur got the worm.

        OK, I think I'm done now.

  • Yea right (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PieSquared (867490) <isosceles2006 AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @04:41PM (#30925258)
    "If this holds up, Birds Are Dinosaurs. Period."

    Nobody out there not convinced by the existing lines of evidence proving birds are dinosaurs is going to be convinced by this. And don't kid yourself, there are lots of such people.
    • Yeah exactly. The amout of evidence that say birds are dinosaurs is overwhelming.

      I personally though, have not met anyone who argues against it.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by kingjoebob (1011701)
        Come to Tennessee, I have neighbors who think the world is 6000 years old and made in 6, 24 hour days. Concepts like science are too complicated for people that closed minded. kjb
        • by Chris Burke (6130)

          Well yes, those are the people for whom the question of whether birds evolved from dinosaurs is ridiculous on its face because nothing "evolves" and dinosaur fossils were just put there by God to test our faith*.

          The question is, is there anyone who actually believes in evolution who doubts the evidence that birds evolved from dinosaurs?

          I don't really think there's anyone in that camp anymore though I could be wrong.

          * Ob Hicks: Dude, I think you were put here to test my faith.

          • * Ob Hicks: Dude, I think you were put here to test my faith.

            Strangely, I've never met an intelligent design believer who seemed intelligently designed.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Randle_Revar (229304)

            There are a very few, sometimes known as BANDits (Bird Are Not Dinosaurs) (see also: Birds came first). Most paleontologists consider BANDits to off their rocker.

        • by RockDoctor (15477)

          Come to Tennessee, I have neighbors who think the world is 6000 years old and made in 6, 24 hour days. Concepts like science are too complicated for people that closed minded.

          If he (or a 'he' of the group) works as a safety consultant in the oil industry ... I think I've met him.

          Seriously - that was scary : a "safety consultant" who can't handle ideas like "evidence" and "statistics". Weird country.

      • by BobMcD (601576)

        Well, I for one need education into what this means, exactly.

        I thought that "dinosaurs" were gigantic reptiles that went extinct many, many years ago.

        The chicken I had for lunch is none of these things.

        Please, explain.

        • Re:Yea right (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Rei (128717) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @05:41PM (#30926454) Homepage

          Well, diapsid reptiles.... but birds are diapsids, too. They just no longer fit into the class "Reptilia". Naming is somewhat of an arbitrary distinction.

          For contrast, we're offshoots of synapsid "reptiles".

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward

            I never really got the whole thing. Once it gets down to that detail level isn't it purely a matter of naming conventions? The taxonomy is a system we impose on it. The important matters of debate were that dinosaurs were: warm blooded, sometimes feathered, and that birds evolved from them. I was pretty convinced of all of those things by current evidence. Behavioral inferences could be made as well. For example when I was little books still described dinosaurs lazing in the sun every morning to warm

        • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @05:44PM (#30926528) Homepage
          Time is an allusion.

          Lunchtime doubly so.
        • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Origin_of_birds [wikipedia.org]

          This is some nice light reading.

          If you think all life ended when the dinosaurs went extinct, you'd be a fool. Otherwise, how would we have come around?

          Our (alleged) evolutionary ancestors are considered just as extinct as the dinosaurs. Homo habilis for example. Don't think this is an ape, this was a smart species that built stone and bone tools. While Gorillas have shown to use bones and stones as tools, they have not yet constructed their own, like this species

        • Around 65 million years ago, dinosaurs went extinct. The assumption, based upon fossil evidence, is that many types of dinosaurs, specifically the saurischian superorder, evolved into birds. While the ornithiscian superorder is called 'bird-hipped,' referring to the hip structure, it is actually the saurischian superorder which evolved. As the saurischian superorder evolved into birds, the evolution of the hips of the various species resembled the ornithiscian hips more and more.

          Collagen found in foss
          • It is always better in discussions such at this to express things as "evolved from" or "descended from" rather than "evolved into". That's both because it is more correct and because people who don't understand evolution take "evolved into" and turn it into "turned into". Then they get confused because something can only turn into one other thing. Also "evolved into" invokes direction or worse, volition. "descended from" does not.

            For example, "birds descended from therapod dinosaurs" is in all probab

        • I thought that "dinosaurs" were gigantic reptiles that went extinct many, many years ago.

          Yeah, that's your problem right there. Three incorrect assumptions in one nice little sentence. While some dinosaurs were gigantic, most were small, and as far as being reptiles, well... some were, some weren't. As far as going extinct, some did, some didn't.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Cro Magnon (467622)

        Judging by the size of the clod that dropped from the sky onto my car this morning, I'm sure it came from a dinosaur.

      • by sznupi (719324)

        From what I see it's strangely "underreported"; lots of people don't care to know / don't realize how directly birds come from one group of dinosaurs. Or that the latter had feathers.

    • by Urkki (668283)

      Nobody out there not convinced by the existing lines of evidence proving birds are dinosaurs is going to be convinced by this. And don't kid yourself, there are lots of such people.

      But what if dinosaurs are birds, while modern birds (and as well as theropods, currently classified as dinosaurs) are not dinosaurs? Has that been conclusively proven to not be the case?

  • Earl Sinclair (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mcgrew (92797) * on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @04:42PM (#30925296) Homepage Journal

    Do you remember being a kid and told we'd never know what colors the dinosaurs were?

    I remember being a kid and told a lot of things would never come to pass that did in fact come to pass.

    • I think it's pretty impressive that colors like black, orange, and even white have traditionally been used to color dinosaurs in books and museums, and now they're finding that they may in fact be the actual colors. We do see greens a lot, but black and dark orange are very popular dinosaur colors.

    • by mjwx (966435)

      I remember being a kid and told a lot of things would never come to pass that did in fact come to pass.

      Would these happen to be:
      Man will never fly.
      No Galileo, the Sun revolves around the Earth.
      The Normans will never be able to invade Briton.

  • by nloop (665733) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @04:43PM (#30925306)
    Flamingo pink, canary yellow, "red factor" coloring. Lots of the brighter colors like those are diet based. That dinosaurs whites could be neon pink if it has the right diet!

    Also, some of those melanosomes degrade chemically fairly quick and will never show in a fossil record.
    • Canary Yellow...

      You mean they had post its back then?

      • by nloop (665733)
        you sir, spend far too much time in an office!
        • Seriously. The first thing I thought of was the yellow jersey, not post it notes :D

          This is proof that science isn't like religion, though - long established theories are constantly challenged and re-worked based on new evidence.
          Unlike religious views :)

          • This [3m.com] is why I thought of Post its. Look at the very bottom of the page.

          • by pbhj (607776)

            This is proof that science isn't like religion, though - long established theories are constantly challenged and re-worked based on new evidence.
            Unlike religious views :)

            The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls (amongst other recent manuscript discoveries like the additional finds of the Codex Sinaiticus in 1975) has challenged Christianity but the evidence found has so far as I know not required any re-working (ie alteration of our understanding of the Historical events).

            Granted much of religion is not testable but one cannot discount that which is challenged under new discoveries. For example if Sinaiticus differed in important theological points from Codex Vaticanus this wo

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Chris Burke (6130)

      Plus the color blue in birds isn't the result of pigment at all, but light refraction. Though that is due to the microscopic structure of the feathers, so maybe we could find fossil evidence for it, I don't know.

  • Do you remember being a kid and told we'd never know what colors the dinosaurs were?

    Funny, I thought they were green like Godzilla and not purple like Barney.
  • Birds are dinosaurs. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Chris Burke (6130) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @04:48PM (#30925412) Homepage

    The evidence and reasoning for birds being the modern descendants of the raptor-like dinosaurs is already pretty damn compelling. If that line of reasoning could have led us astray, then it's just as likely that this is just a case of parallel evolution where feathers and feather pigmentation were evolved separately by both dinosaurs and whatever the hell birds' actual ancestor's were.

    I guess what I'm saying is that this is more about answering the question of how bird-like were the dinosaurs already or how early did bird-like features evolve, rather than piling more evidence on the dinosaur-bird connection.

    Though I'll admit I'm biased, since that connection means my bird watching is a little less nerdy since it's actually dinosaur watching!

    Wait... no, it's still just as nerdy.

  • by bsDaemon (87307) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @04:48PM (#30925416)
    More like a... six-foot turkey.
    • I could never quite figure out whether that was a very girlish pudgy little boy or a very manish pudgy little girl.

      I also love that they made the claw-on-cotton sounds more like a claw-on-burlap when he does the "cutting" on him/her.

  • If this holds up, Birds Are Dinosaurs. Period.

    No, they're not. Birds are not dinosaurs any more than squid, octopus and nautilus are ammonites. Closely related they may be, but birds are birds.

    • by spidercoz (947220)
      pedantic much?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by DesScorp (410532)

      If this holds up, Birds Are Dinosaurs. Period.

      No, they're not. Birds are not dinosaurs any more than squid, octopus and nautilus are ammonites. Closely related they may be, but birds are birds.

      I can see where they'd think modern birds are descendants of velociraptors, or even the T-Rex to some extent. But what about dinosaurs like Brontosaurus or Triceratops? Do we really think those guys were bird ancestors? They look more like elephants than ostriches. We lump a lot of animals together under the generic "dinosaur" tag. But how much does a stegosaurus have in common with an allosaurus... and by extent, a chicken or an eagle?

      • by Chris Burke (6130)

        I can see where they'd think modern birds are descendants of velociraptors, or even the T-Rex to some extent. But what about dinosaurs like Brontosaurus or Triceratops? Do we really think those guys were bird ancestors?

        No, birds are only descendants of the raptor family of dinosaurs. "Family" not used in the specific scientific sense; I'm terrible at taxonomy to begin with, and I have no idea how narrowly they've narrowed down the possible bird-progenitor species.

    • They are indeed (Score:3, Informative)

      by haggholm (1678078)
      Birds are grouped in the same clade as dinosaurs—the same even-narrower clade as theropod dinosaurs, in fact. (Or in Wikipedia's words: “Based on fossil and biological evidence, most scientists accept that birds are a specialised sub-group of theropod dinosaurs. More specifically, they are members of Maniraptora, a group of theropods which includes dromaeosaurs and oviraptorids, among others.”) Squid, octopodes, and nautiluses do not fall into the clade of ammonites (the nearest clade in
    • I didn't see any dinosaurs in "Life of Birds." Ergo, you are correct.
    • No, they're not. Birds are not dinosaurs

      In common use, they might usually be referred to that way, but technically birds are dinosaurs. Whether or not other dinosaurs had feathers.

      Closely related they may be, but birds are birds.

      Technically, birds are birds, but birds are a subset of dinosaurs, which are a subset of reptiles, which are a subset of animals, which are a subset of living things, and saying "birds are not dinosaurs, birds are birds" is exactly like saying "reptiles aren't animals, reptiles are

  • Another source (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Lord Byron Eee PC (1579911) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @04:56PM (#30925566)

    http://cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2008/07/09/1189634.aspx [msn.com]

    This is an older article that also talks about the banding.

  • by Korbeau (913903) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @05:00PM (#30925660)

    Do you remember being a kid and told we'd never know what colors the dinosaurs were?

    I remember being told that we could in theory breed dinosaurs in test tubes by extracting blood from mosquitoes preserved in amber ...

  • How about "Birds were dinosaurs. Period."? There's this little thing called evolution... What my ancestors were may not be what I am now. Where you draw the distinguishing line is non-trivial.

    ~D

    • by sznupi (719324)

      Though from what I see there's lately some trend of assigning groups of animals to "upstream" taxa...doesn't look so weird though with latin names.

  • ... and since Microsoft owns the patent to the color they've since filed a motion to sue the Jurassic Age.
  • by macbeth66 (204889) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @05:05PM (#30925790)

     

    The work also thoroughly thrashes the idea that fossils might not be feathers, but collagen fibers instead.

    ah, no. Fossils are not feathers. Ever. In any way, shape or form. However, these fossils might be of feathers.

    • by spidercoz (947220)
      Just clearing that up for the two or three pinheads on here who are reading this while chewing on their keyboards.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      It really depends on the nature of the fossils in question. If actual keratin is retained, rather than just the shape of the presumed keratin, then there is good reason to say the fossils are feathers.
  • Could Carrot Top [wikipedia.org] be evolved from the "Carrot Bottom" dinosaur??

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