Dinosaurs’ Shiny Black Feathers

A 130 million-year-old winged dinosaur offers scientist the oldest evidence of iridescent feathers.

By | March 9, 2012

image: Dinosaurs’ Shiny Black Feathers Artist's rendition of Microraptors with iridescent plumageJason Brougham, University of Texas

Artist's rendition of Microraptors with iridescent plumage JASON BROUGHAM, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS

As one of the first feathered and winged dinosaurs to be described, the Microraptor is no stranger to headlines. Now, a nano-scale analysis of a well-preserved 130-million-year-old Microraptor fossil reveals clues about the feathers that once covered the crow-sized creature, which were likely black and iridescent. The discovery not only provides the earliest evidence of iridescent feathers (and the first example outside the avian family), but also offers clues about the function of feathers during their early evolution.

Researchers were able to infer the coloring of the Microraptor’s plumage by studying electron micrographs of melanin-packed structures called melanosomes that were preserved in the fossils, and comparing them with those of extant birds such as penguins, cockatoos, and ducks. They found that the arrangement and shapes of the melanosomes in Microraptor feathers were like those found in birds with black, iridescent feathers, such as crows.

“Our evidence that Microraptor was largely iridescent thus suggests that feathers were important for display even relatively early in their evolution.” Matthew Shawkey a biologist at the University of Akron in Ohio and one of the authors of the study, told The New York Times.

It also discredits the hypothesis that Microraptor was a nocturnal creature, since dark, glossy plumage is found only in birds active during the daytime.

The research was published yesterday (March 8) in Science.[gallery]

Advertisement

Add a Comment

Avatar of: You

You

Processing...
Processing...

Sign In with your LabX Media Group Passport to leave a comment

Not a member? Register Now!

LabX Media Group Passport Logo

Comments

Avatar of: Babu G. Ranganathan

Babu G. Ranganathan

Posts: 1457

March 9, 2012

THIS WASN'T A DINOSAUR! It was a bird (that's why it had feathers!), butevolutionists classified it as a dinosaur to fit their theory. Read theexcellent Internet article, "Is New Fossil A Bird-Eating Dinosaur?"by biologist and creationist Brian Thomas.

There are natural limits to evolution. The genesalready exist in all natural species for micro-evolution (variations withinbiological "kinds" such as for varieties of dogs, cats, etc.), butthe genes do not exist in natural species for macro-evolution (variationsacross biological "kinds" such as from worm to human). How didspecies survive if their vital tissues, organs, reproductive systems, etc. werestill evolving? Read my Pravda Internet article, WAR AMONG EVOLUTIONISTS! Idiscuss Punctuated Equilibrium, "Junk DNA," genetics, mutations,natural selection, fossils, genetic and biological similarities betweenspecies.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

March 9, 2012

THIS WASN'T A DINOSAUR! It was a bird (that's why it had feathers!), butevolutionists classified it as a dinosaur to fit their theory. Read theexcellent Internet article, "Is New Fossil A Bird-Eating Dinosaur?"by biologist and creationist Brian Thomas.

There are natural limits to evolution. The genesalready exist in all natural species for micro-evolution (variations withinbiological "kinds" such as for varieties of dogs, cats, etc.), butthe genes do not exist in natural species for macro-evolution (variationsacross biological "kinds" such as from worm to human). How didspecies survive if their vital tissues, organs, reproductive systems, etc. werestill evolving? Read my Pravda Internet article, WAR AMONG EVOLUTIONISTS! Idiscuss Punctuated Equilibrium, "Junk DNA," genetics, mutations,natural selection, fossils, genetic and biological similarities betweenspecies.

Advertisement

Popular Now

  1. Neanderthal-Human Hybrid Unearthed
  2. Extra DNA Base Discovered
    The Nutshell Extra DNA Base Discovered

    An epigenetic variant of cytosine is stable in the genomes of living mice, suggesting a possible expansion of the DNA alphabet.

  3. Opinion: Too Many Mitochondrial Genome Papers
  4. The Brain on Fear
    The Scientist The Brain on Fear

    Scientists uncover the neurons in the mouse brain responsible for linking the sight of a looming object to scared behavior.

Advertisement
Eppendorf
Eppendorf
Advertisement
The Scientist