What was the real color of the dinosaurs? – Archeophile

No animal has undergone more drastic change in recent decades than non-avian dinosaurs. These dinosaurs, which were thought to have nothing more than pale gray and brown scales, would now have flamboyant feathers in vivid colors and patterns. So what was the real color of the dinosaurs? And how do we know that?

Borealopelta, a dinosaur belonging to the Nodosaur dinosaur family, looked like an armored tank but still needed shade to protect it from Cretaceous predators. A: Julius T. Csotonyi/Copyright Royal Tyrrell Museum

The scientist we should thank for the answers to both of these questions is Jakob Vinther, associate professor of macroevolution at the University of Bristol in England. After fossilized dinosaur feathers were first reported in 1996, scientists identified round microscopic structures inside these feathers; Many scientists had assumed that these structures were fossilized bacteria.

But as a doctoral student working on a completely different animal, Vinther realized that these structures could be much more than just fossilized bacteria.

“I was studying fossilized ink in primitive animals like squids and octopuses.” Winther said. “It was extremely well preserved.”

(Related: How do we know birds are dinosaurs?)

“If you take the ink out of the squid you bought from the fisherman and put it under the electron microscope, you’ll see perfect little round balls. If you put fossilized ink under the microscope, it will always look exactly the same: perfect little round balls.

These balls, which are microscopic drops of the pigment melanin that gives color to hair, skin, feathers and eyes in the animal kingdom, are called melonosomes. It turns out that these rounded structures were identical to those thought to be bacteria in dinosaur feathers.

Most scientists thought that the pigment could not survive during the fossilization process, but the discoveries made by scientists like Vinther showed that if the pigment retained its structure in this process, it could also give us information about the real colors of extinct animals. Because the melanin didn’t just appear as “perfect little round balls”, but the many different forms of melanin each produced a different color.

“If you look at a black-haired human or a black-feathered bird, you’ll see that their melanosomes are sausage-shaped.” Winther said. “But if you look at the migratory thrush with a red breast, or the red-haired actor Scott Thompson, also known as Carrot Top, you’ll see melanosomes shaped like little meatballs.”

“So in short, you can determine the true color of an extinct animal by trying to detect melanosomes, which are shaped like sausages or meatballs.”

Large fatty melanosomes indicate gray or blue pigment. Long and thin, flat and hollow melanosomes are indicative of radiance.

“It actually happens when melanin is arranged in the hair to create structures that can interact with light,” Vinther said. said. The flat or hollow shapes of individual melanosomes allow them to harmonize with each other to reveal the metallic sheen of shimmer.

If you identify the shape of the melanosomes in a fossil, you can get all kinds of information about that animal. For example, some dinosaurs known to be fearsome were learned to be extremely flamboyant.

jurassic park chasing the kids in the kitchen VelociraptorThere is no one we don’t know. First of all, this dinosaur was covered in feathers. Unlike the naked creature we see in the movie, this creature was like a bird. But what’s more, VelaciraptorMany of the close relatives of were brilliant. So these had a metallic sheen, like hummingbirds or peacocks.

Anchiornis, the size of a raven, had black and white wings and a red crest on top of its head during the Jurassic period. A: Carl Buell

Other dinosaurs had complex camouflage. The first dinosaur studied by Vinther, Anchiornis It was a small bird-like animal. Based on the melanosomes, Vinther and his team concluded that this dinosaur had a gray body, white feathers with black spots at the tips, and a red crest (a long feather found on the crests of some birds) like a woodpecker.

The first dinosaur discovered with feathers Sinosauropteryx Another dinosaur, named raccoon, had a striped tail and a “thug mask” like a raccoon. It also had a kind of natural shaded camouflage, in which the animal’s usually shaded body parts were more lightly pigmented than those exposed to the sun. A classic example of this natural camouflage is the white-tailed deer, which has a white belly and brown back.Odocoileus virginianus) can be displayed.

Sinosauropteryx, a small bipedal (standing on two legs) dinosaur, had a raccoon-like face mask and shading when hunting prey during the Cretaceous Period. A: Bob Nicholls

This coloring gives scientists information about the habitat of this creature; if SinosauropteryxIf the body shading is sharp and excessive, as in , the animal probably lives in an open area. The more gradual and lower shading on the body indicates a wooded environment where the light is more diffused.

the Psittacosaurus dinosaur, the size of a Labrador dog; Throughout its Cretaceous life, it had a light pigmented tint under its belly and tail, and a darker pigmented tint on its back. A: Bob Nicholls

Camouflage also helps distinguish predators from prey. Gigantic armored dinosaur Borealopelta markmitchellialthough it may seem that there are no predators capable of preying on him, his shading indicates otherwise.

“If you look at today’s large animals like elephants and rhinos, they don’t have colorful patterns.” Winther said. “It’s because there are no predators trying to hunt them down.”

“Well Borealopelta markmitchellishading despite being covered in really huge armor tells us ‘jurassic parkHe tells me that “it’s really scary”. Vinther concludes, “So even though you’re this big and armored, you can still be vulnerable to attack.”

Live Science. April 24, 2022.

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