Dinosaur colors are no longer guesswork
Scientists get first clues into their pigmentation
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.