Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?

Researchers Find Color In Fossils 77

Science News has a look at the latest paleontological fashion: what may be the remains of pigment in fossilized feathers 100 million years old. The material in question is believed to be black melanin, on the evidence of its similarity in scanning-microscope images to the modern pigment. The researchers are hopeful of identifying other varieties of melanin, which provide red or yellow coloration; and also possibly of spotting fossilized nanostructures of melanin that create iridescent patterns in some modern animals.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Researchers Find Color In Fossils

Comments Filter:
  • background? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Bender_ ( 179208 ) on Sunday August 03, 2008 @07:00PM (#24460247) Journal

    ok? So why is this so special? I understand melanin may degrade easily, but hasn't a lot of similar organic matter been found in fossils earlier?

  • by GodfatherofSoul ( 174979 ) on Monday August 04, 2008 @12:11AM (#24462265)

    A couple of days ago, I found myself looking up birds on Wikipedia (don't ask why, my attention wanders) and found an interesting note on blue jays [wikipedia.org].

    As with other blue-hued birds, the Blue Jay's coloration is not derived by pigments, but is the result of light refraction due to the internal structure of the feathers; if a blue feather is crushed, the blue disappears as the structure is destroyed. This is referred to as structural coloration.

    I'm not a bird watcher, so I don't know if this is just an anomaly specific to blue birds.

  • by whong09 ( 1307849 ) on Monday August 04, 2008 @03:16AM (#24463261)
    I'd have to respectfully disagree with you on this. Knowing the color of dinosaurs in the past is not important, and putting time and effort into researching this is a mismanagement of resources. Instead of figuring out something so unimportant, we should be trying to figure out more important things. There are plenty of fields that need much more funding that can deliver useful results soon such as energy related science and technology. Funding scientists to study color pigments in fossils would divert crucial resources from more important subjects. Also you say that standardizing parts of our past that we don't know about would be a mistake. I agree with you on this, but deciding here and now that the color of dinosaurs is not that important right now and should not be funded for the time being is in no way standardizing anything. We could always decide later that this information is actually important and revise our earlier decision. The point is that choosing to fund something that isn't important (as you yourself admitted) solely out of fear of later misjudging the importance of knowing something is illogical and makes little sense. But of course, scientists particularly interested in this are free to study to their hearts content. Just don't let them suck money from other scientists whose work will definitely benefit humanity in a huge way.
  • by phulegart ( 997083 ) on Monday August 04, 2008 @07:34AM (#24464467)

    You do make a very good point, but I'd like to point out that a big part of the reason why newer energy technologies are not being researched, has nothing whatsoever to do with funding. It doesn't matter a whit if money is going to scientists studying this fossilized pigmentation.

    Since the early 60's, a gentleman in Arizona has been converting internal combustion engines of all types to run on hydrogen. The reason why this technology has not been explored more has nothing to do with funding, and everything to do with large companies that deal in oil having the money to pay lobbyists to push their interests through congress, fund research to further the use of their product, and having the power and money to squash things like Hydrogen Technology. I've seen the guys videos, I've read his literature, I've met the man. His simplest demonstration really says it all. He simply removes the carb from a Briggs and Stratton engine, sticks a feed from a tank of hydrogen directly into the hole left behind, opens the tank and starts the engine. How fast the engine goes is decided by how much hydrogen he lets flow into the engine. He doesn't even modify anything (unless pulling the carb off is modification).

    Also, the US government in the late 80's funded a research project that studied how often cows chew their cud. This project received $250,000. At about the same time, the US government funded a study into how often people smile in bowling alleys. This project received $375,000. These amounts of money might be drops in the bucket, however, these two projects are both far more useless than studying pigmentation in something we thought previously lacked pigmentation... namely fossils. And there are far more projects receiving money out there that are just as ludicrous as cud chewing or pleasant bowling alleys. I dunno.

    So it's one thing when worthy projects are competing for the same money as unworthy projects. It's another when money is actively being spent to suppress technologies that would supplant the suppressor. In the case of energy tech, there have always been large entities that do not want us researching alternate ways of putting them out of business.

  • by elgatozorbas ( 783538 ) on Monday August 04, 2008 @08:12AM (#24464711)
    Even simpler than that: it is cool to find out stuff, regardless of its importance (as initially perceived!).

If you want to put yourself on the map, publish your own map.