Sunday, February 07, 2010

Dinosaur Color Barrier is Broken! And a Red-tailed Hawk Nabs a Rattlesnake

An illustration showing the likely colors of Anchiornis huxleyi.

Bill Walters, scourer of the New York Times, sent in this article. They've cracked the dinosaur color barrier! I cannot tell you how excited I am about this. For me, it's up there with when scientists finally came round to the idea that birds are dinosaurs or decendants of dinosaurs depending on the flavor of the opinion.

Evidence Builds on Color of Dinosaurs

Published: February 4, 2010

Until last week, paleontologists could offer no clear-cut evidence for the color of dinosaurs. Then researchers provided evidence that a dinosaur called Sinosauropteryx had a white-and-ginger striped tail. And now a team of paleontologists has published a full-body portrait of another dinosaur, in striking plumage that would have delighted that great painter of birds John James Audubon.

“This is actual science, not ‘Avatar,’ ” said Richard O. Prum, an evolutionary biologist at Yale and co-author of the new study, published in Science.
Dr. Prum and his colleagues took advantage of the fact that feathers contain pigment-loaded sacs called melanosomes. In 2009, they demonstrated that melanosomes survived for millions of years in fossil bird feathers. The shape and arrangement of melanosomes help produce the color of feathers, so the scientists were able to get clues about the color of fossil feathers from their melanosomes alone.

Image courtesy Chuang Zhao and Lida Xing
And from John Blakeman the link from National Geographic. At this link the top photo on this post is in video so he twirls for a full 360 degree view.

The colors of the reptile are here:

And they were determined by the shape of cellular structures that contain melanin.
First True-Color Dinosaur

Sinosauropteryx, a turkey-size carnivorous dinosaur, is the first dinosaur—excluding birds, which many paleontologists consider to be dinosaurs—to have its color scientifically established.

In 1996, Sinosauropteryx was also the first dinosaur reported to have feathers. It was found in the Yixian formation, 130- to 123-million-year-old sediments in Liaoning Province in northeast China, which have since produced thousands of apparently feathery fossils.

In a report released online today by the journal Nature, an international team of paleontologists and experts in scanning electron micrography infer that this dinosaur had reddish orange feathers running along its back and a striped tail. (Read the full story: "True Dinosaur Colors Revealed for the First Time.")

Why would a dinosaur need a striped tail? Many birds, the living descendants of non-avian dinosaurs, use brightly colored tails for courtship displays.
For more--- (It's so long it's broken so you'll likely have to type it into your address bar.)

The Red-tail Has Rattler for Dinner--my favorite video find of the week.
I love the Red-tail's approach. They're clever, coordinated, and quick, but then we knew that.

Donegal Browne

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