Di­nosaur colors are no longer guess­work

Sci­en­tists get first clues into their pig­men­ta­tion

Chicago Sun-Times - - News -

WASH­ING­TON — Sci­en­tists have for the first time con­firmed color in a di­nosaur. Don’t think pur­ple Bar­ney, but red­dish-or­ange Co­nan O’Brien.

The first solid proof of pig­men­ta­tion has been spot­ted in the fos­silized tail feathers of a small­ish meat-eat­ing di­nosaur found in China and named Si­nosauropte­ryx. The crea­ture seems to have rus­set-col­ored rings, ac­cord­ing to a pa­per pub­lished on­line Wed­nes­day in the jour­nal Na­ture.

That 125 mil­lion-year-old tail has the same in­ter­nal cel­lu­lar col­or­ing agents as the hair of a red-haired per­son, said study lead au­thor Mike Ben­ton, a pro­fes­sor of pa­le­on­tol­ogy at the Uni­ver­sity of Bris­tol in Eng­land. And the same find­ing pro­vides what some out­side ex­perts say is even more con­clu­sive ev­i­dence that some di­nosaurs had feathers, fur­ther link­ing them to birds.

Ben­ton and his col­leagues didn’t ac­tu­ally see the red­dish color it­self. Us­ing an elec­tron mi­cro­scope, they spot­ted the spe­cific cel­lu­lar signs of the color. An ear­lier study by an­other group of re­searchers and Ben­ton’s team found sim­i­lar cel­lu­lar color

hints in pre­his­toric bird feathers.

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