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Earth Science

Dinosaur Feather Color Discovered 219

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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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @05:40PM (#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 Chris Burke ( 6130 ) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @05:53PM (#30925516) Homepage

    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.

  • by BitZtream ( 692029 ) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @06:00PM (#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.

  • by BobMcD ( 601576 ) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @06:04PM (#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.

  • They are indeed (Score:3, Informative)

    by haggholm ( 1678078 ) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @06:43PM (#30926512)
    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 including all of these animals is the class Cephalopoda); therefore (1) they are not ammonites and (2) your analogy is completely off base.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @06:53PM (#30926698)

    Double fail!

    Yes they are []:

    Dinosaurs are not extinct. Technically. Based on features of the skeleton, most people studying dinosaurs consider birds to be dinosaurs. This shocking realization makes even the smallest hummingbird a legitimate dinosaur. So rather than refer to "dinosaurs" and birds as discrete, separate groups, it is best to refer to the traditional, extinct animals as "non-avian dinosaurs" and birds as, well, birds, or "avian dinosaurs." It is incorrect to say that dinosaurs are extinct, because they have left living descendants in the form of cockatoos, cassowaries, and their pals — just like modern vertebrates are still vertebrates even though their Cambrian ancestors are long extinct.

  • by the biologist ( 1659443 ) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @07:13PM (#30927044)
    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.
  • Re:Yea right (Score:3, Informative)

    by Randle_Revar ( 229304 ) <> on Thursday January 28, 2010 @05:52AM (#30931186) Homepage Journal

    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.

"I'm not afraid of dying, I just don't want to be there when it happens." -- Woody Allen