Friday, February 5, 2010

Dinosaurs just got to look a whole lot stranger

Picture of head of Anchiornis huxleyi -- the first dinosaur to have its full body scientifically colored

Yes. It is a dinosaur. There are obviously speculative elements in this reconstruction, but it is speculation based on some interesting new evidence.

The subject of the February 4, 2010, Science study—the 155-million-year-old Anchiornis huxleyi—turns out to have looked something like a woodpecker the size of a chicken, with black-and-white spangled wings and a rusty red crown.

Only a short time ago Anchiornis was completely unknown to science. The chicken-size dinosaur species' color patterns were decoded after the study authors had used a scanning electron microscope to study pigment samples taken from fossil feathers all over a specimen and then compared the samples to pigment from modern birds.

From National Geographic:

For the first time, scientists have decoded the full-body color patterns of a dinosaur, a new study in the journal Science says.

That may sound familiar, given last week's announcement of the first scientifically verified dinosaur color scheme.

But the previous research, published in Nature, had found pigments only on a few isolated parts of dinosaurs (see pictures)—and had used less rigorous methods for assigning colors to the fossilized, filament-like "protofeathers" found on some dinosaur specimens, say authors of the new report.

Both studies raise hopes that improved knowledge of dinosaur coloration could lead to insights into how some prehistoric animals behaved and why feathers evolved in the first place.

You can see a 3-D illustration of it here.

The other critter referred to is this:

An illustration depicting dinosaur Sinosauropteryx in true color, with a striped tail and orange back feathers

"Sinosauropteryx is the first fossil dinosaur to have its color scientifically established."

Pigments have been found in fossil dinosaurs for the first time, a new study says.

The discovery may prove once and for all that dinosaurs' hairlike filaments—sometimes called dino fuzz—are related to bird feathers, paleontologists announced today. (Pictures: Dinosaur True Colors Revealed by Feather Find.)

As discussed previously, the really interesting thing about Sinosauropteryx is the fact that phylogenetically it is a quite primitive theropod (irrespective of when it particularly lived), being a compsognathid.

So the presence of feathers (or something clearly ancestral to these structures) so "early" within the theropods is significant.

Posted via email from Garth's posterous

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

nice, i just added up tons of bran-new emo backgrounds to my blog