For the last twenty years, archaeologists have found many dinosaur species with feathers which were well preserved. These findings were mainly from China. With this recent discovery of preserved melanosomes on the fossil feathers, scientists are beginning to find the original colours of dinosaur species.<br />DinosaursCome to Life<br />PhoongKhangZhie<br />2O321<br />ANCHIORNIS<br />WHERE: CHINA<br />WHEN: 161-151 MILLION YEARS AGO<br />
Depictions in Society<br />The word “dinosaur was introduced in the 1800s, and these long extinct dinos have captured our vivid imaginations. People have depicted dinosaurs as terrifying creatures in Hollywood blockbuster movie – Jurassic Park, museum exhibits and illustrated books. <br />
Depictions in Society<br />Ever since the word “dinosaur” was introduced in 1842, the long lost reptiles have captured our collective imagination. Museum exhibits, illustrated books and Hollywood blockbusters such as Jurassic Park bring the extinct monsters to life in terrifying detail.<br />
Where are they now?<br />Dinosaurs have been extinct many million years ago, and what we have left of these dinosaurs are their skeletons and their faintly coloured feathers. Many assumptions of he colours of dinosaurs’ are based mainly on educated guesses.<br />
Paleoartists<br />“<br />For decades, paleoartists have drawn inspiration from modern reptiles, fish and birds living in habitats similar to those of their ancient predecessors.<br />With no specific guidelines to follow, some people can go pretty wild with colours, which risks making them unbelievable.<br />Gary Staab<br />Paleoartist in American Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C.<br />Most artists use neutral gray tomes commonly found in nature – brown, green, gray and black – to colour their models. But a few get more imaginative.<br />”<br />
No More Guessing Game<br />In 2008, Jakob Vinther, a graduate student in paleontology at Yale University, announced the discovery of fossilized dinosaur or prehistoric bird-feather melanosomes, cell structures that synthesize and store the pigment melanin. By examining the shape and pattern of the structures, researchers could first time identify dinosaur feather colours, such as the red-brown crest atop Anchiornis’s head or the chestnut stripes on Sinosauropteryx’s tail.<br />Sinosauropteryx<br />
No More Guessing Game<br />This findings will bring about more than better illustrations of the creatures. Paleontologists will use information about colours and patterns to investigate the animals’ biology – how males and females communicated, for example, or how the dinosaurs recognized their own kind. The research could also help explain how feathers evolved, leading to flight.<br />Sinosauropteryx<br />
The Discovery<br />In 2006, when Vinther was in his first year at Yale, he examined to 150-million-year-old squid ink sacs. He was surprised to find within them melanin, the same pigment that determines human skin colour. The pigment cells were virtually identical to those found in modern squids. <br />Velociraptor<br />Melanin serves a variety of functions. In humans, it protects skin cells from sun damage, and in birds it increases feather strength. Squid use it to scare off predators with a cloud of ink.<br />
The Discovery<br />Vinther thought that perhaps melanosomes in the fossils could reveal the colours of dinosaurs.<br />First, Vinther had to find out if feather melanosomes fossilize. He looked at the structures in a wreath of preserved feathers from a 50-million-year-old bird skull found in Denmark. A scanning electron microscope revealed what looked like eumelanins on the feathers. Briggs believed that these rod shapes were bacteria.<br />
The Discovery<br />Secondly, Vinther’s academic advisor, Briggs, asked him to examine another fossil. The feather, found in Brazil, belonged to either a dinosaur or prehistoric bird. Briggs and Vinther only found the rod shapes in the dark stripes of the feather; on the other hand, bacteria would be evenly distributed throughout the feather. <br />CONCLUSION:<br />The structures are melanosomes, not bacteria. The results of this discovery, published in October 2008, sparked an interest in “colour-mapping” feathered dinosaurs.<br />
Colouring Dinosaurs<br />Many paleontologists have started to research deeper into coloring of the feathers of extinct dinosaurs. <br />For example, Mike Benton from the University of Bristol spent two years examining feathered dinosaur fossils from Asia’s 131 to 120 million year old Jehol ecosystem. Mike Benton and his group of paleontologists zoomed in a little closer on Jehol specimens and found the same rod-shape melanosomes as well as spherical melanosomes on non-avian dinosaurs. <br />
How to Colour Dinosaurs<br />By studying packets of melanin pigments (melanosomes) in feathers from today’s birds, paleontologists can now determine the colour of feathered dinosaurs. AnchiornisHuxeleyiis the fist dinosaur whose colour scheme has been completely decoded.<br />A. Vinther’s team sampled 29 areas on A. Huxleyi, including the right hind limb, both forelimbs and the head. Sampling locations were chosen based on factors such as feather shape and remnants of visible patterns.<br />
How to Colour Dinosaurs<br />B. The researchers looked at the shape and density of the melanosomes of their impressions at each site. The presence of rod shaped pigment indicated that an area was black, whereas spherical structures indicate brown or red colours.<br />C. The scientists input this data into a model that colourised the fossil based on comparisons with similar melanosome compositions in modern birds. A scientific illustrator used the results to make a reconstruction of the animal.<br />
Feathers<br />Non-avian dinosaurs developed feathers roughly 260 to 230 million years ago, possibly as a form of visual communication. Colour patterns may have determined dinosaurs’ ability to attract mates. By the early Cretaceous period, around 145 to 99 million years ago, the evolution of feather shape had enabled early flight. <br />Caudipteryx<br />By early Cretaceous period, species like this animal bear feathers with a central shaft. The more complex structure allows for patterns within a single feather – an advantage for attracting mates in species recognition.<br />Caudipteryx<br />By early Cretaceous period, species like this animal bear feathers with a central shaft. The more complex structure allows for patterns within a single feather – an advantage for attracting mates in species recognition.<br />Confuciusornis<br />Feathers on the first birds, such as Confuciusornis are longer with thinker central stalks, enabling them to stay rigid during flight. The tail is almost gone: It’s now merely a stump with long feathers that aid in flight.<br />
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