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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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  • Yea right (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PieSquared (867490) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <6002selecsosi>> on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @05:41PM (#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.
  • by nloop (665733) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @05:43PM (#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.
  • Birds are dinosaurs. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Chris Burke (6130) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @05:48PM (#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.

  • Another source (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Lord Byron Eee PC (1579911) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @05:56PM (#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 Rei (128717) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @06:29PM (#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 DesScorp (410532) <DesScorpNO@SPAMGmail.com> on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @06:35PM (#30926350) Homepage Journal

    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?

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

    by Rei (128717) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @06:41PM (#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".

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @09:46PM (#30928562)

    Modern birds don't have teeth. But birds lost their teeth long after the first "true" birds come about. Not having teeth is definitely not one of the factors that splits true birds from their dinosaur ancestors.

  • Re:Yea right (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 28, 2010 @12:28AM (#30929568)

    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 up, like lizards do.

    Also, funniest part about jurassic park was when the paleontologist is trying to tell the kids that dinosaurs were birds, and one of his pieces of evidence is that "even the word raptor means bird of prey". A word invented by people, millions of years later?

  • by CorporateSuit (1319461) on Thursday January 28, 2010 @01:38AM (#30929970)

    I can feel myself going on an evolution rant, so I will stop now. Just remember that hunches and wild theories mean nothing without valid, peer reviewed evidence. I will gladly take science over guessing games.

    Sadly, the supporting arguments for evolution are rationalization, conjecture, manipulation, and "You don't know evolution, and that's why you disagree with it" bullocks. If you want to discuss evolution with me, you must accept that I understand it just as well as you do. I've read all the manipulative literature that you have. I've seen the documentaries, articles, and heard the dialogues. If you can convince yourself that dinosaurs evolved from their glorious forms into birds from the time of their last fossils until the time of the first bird fossils, then you must understand what you look like from my point of view -- as I've quite certainly heard enough from yours.

    Pretend for an instant that the fossil records we have are correct -- that the big dinosaurs were killed off. Pretend for an instant that what we see in our modern-day rainforests, savannahs, wetlands, and great plains (extinction of races, not evolution) might have happened BEFORE such phenomena were so easily observable. Pretend that having your most vocal advocates commonly employ the strategy of using unrelated [and unobserved] case studies to patch together their framework of groupthink-enforced manipulation -- might not be convincing to people who don't think like you do. Can you pretend these 3 things, and then tell me, with a straight face, that any of what you say is believable -- I'll have to find myself in disagreement.

    Let me put it this way.

    • Scientifically, we can and have observed that species go extinct without evolving.
    • Scientifically, we can and have observed that when one species goes extinct, many other species can be discovered that have no relation to the original species. Some of these may even share what were once believed to be unique traits with the now-expired species.
    • Analytically, we can deduce the CHANCES that dinosaurs would simply have evolved in what they would view as their own prey in anticipation of a global catastrophe caused by an intercelestial object as approaching zero. Simply because the dinosaurs are all gone and the birds are all here does NOT support the theory that all the dinosaurs of a certain order decided to up and give birth to birds. The chances that one dinosaur species might evolve into a bird? Extremely, ridiculously, incalculably, and most importantly, UNOBSERVEDLY slim. That 20 species within an order would all evolve similarly into 20 species of birds, thereafter to propogate into hundreds of thousands of species of birds, leaving no forks that shared traits with crocodiles, lizards, and other creatures of inferior make that went without change while these seemed to completely overhaul their entire biological structure? The chances flatline at 0.

    If you really want to dance this dance, and argue with me that you are more likely to be right than I am when I say that they died out, not evolved into avians, then you're wrong. You are not more likely to be correct. Natural observations and fossil records are on my side. You have one-in-a-trillion shots, inference, and narrative on yours. Scientifically, I do claim the scientific highground in the name of simple observational science. If you wish to file counterclaim for it, you'd better understand that you aren't arguing with an idiot, or someone who understands evolution any less than you. I'm not using rhetoric, long-shots, guesswork, or unobserved phenomena. I'm saying what happens to hundreds, if not thousands, of species every year happened 60 million years ago. Whatever theory you come up with to disagree with me must be scientifically persuasive enough to disagrees with a theory based on that common, observed FACT of nature... more simply put -- everything dies -- not a theory based upon another theory that was based on the observations on how animals alter, during the course of their lives, to adapt to their environments -- and maybe dinosaurs learned to fly and became chickens.

  • by Chris Burke (6130) on Thursday January 28, 2010 @03:40PM (#30939364) Homepage

    When I describe the current theory of evolution, I describe it for the fraud it is.

    No, when you describe it, you describe what you imagine the theory is, and then explain why your imagination is obviously wrong.

    Your posts in this thread are completely chock-full of misconceptions, errors, and flat out fabrications of what evolutionary theory is. You make claims about what evolutionary theory states, but those claims are completely wrong. They are strawmen. You then proceed to burn them, and think that proves you "right". Good job. *golf clap*

    You see, I don't think you're wrong because you disagree with evolution. I think you're wrong because you obviously have no understanding of evolution but claim to. You can't possibly prove evolution wrong without actually knowing what it is saying.

    If you actually understood evolution like you claim to, then we could have a reasonable discussion about the strengths and weaknesses of these claims. You might actually have something useful to contribute. But since you don't know, think you know, and ergo obviously refuse to educate yourself, you cannot contribute anything useful.

    You see, I have been listening to you, and that's why I know that if you understood evolution like you claim to, you could, yourself, point out at least half a dozen errors in your description of evolutionary theory. Until you can demonstrate this understanding by pointing out those errors, then you're simply another example of someone who thinks deliberate ignorance is a form of intellectual strength. So, come on, demonstrate your understanding to me. What outright falsehoods have you stated in your posts?

    Because I'm feeling very generous, I'll give you a hint on one of them. You mentioned something about T-Rex's limbs being unable to evolve into bird wings. In the actual theory, it is in fact limb structure itself that provides a very strong clue (among many).

    Just in case you manage to google that up, read up on it, pretend you knew about it already, and want to come back and here and say how your vague and brand new comprehension enables you to prove it wrong, keep in mind there are plenty of other errors you made. If you can't point them out, I'm just not going to believe you know what you're talking about.

    And if you can point them out, then you were just trolling with your lies. But believe me, that's pretty much the best case scenario for you.

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