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OffbeatHow colour shaped dinosaurs’ lives

17:31  04 september  2019
17:31  04 september  2019 Source:   theweek.co.uk

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Dinosaurs ’ Lives researchers discovered that the colours of the ancient animals may have been radically different than previously believed. Pigment found in fossilized remains may clarify how the old creatures’ bodies functioned. Analysts considering dinosaur fossils have found that the shades of

Home » Blogs » nandi's blog » How Colour Shaped Dinosaurs ’ Lives . And while exactly what those colours may have been has yet to be determined for most dinosaur species, the new findings suggest that pigment-producing structures go beyond how they looked and may have played a fundamental

How colour shaped dinosaurs’ lives© Provided by Dennis Publishing Limited

Researchers studying dinosaur fossils have discovered that the colours of the ancient animals may have been radically different than previously believed.

And while exactly what those colours may have been has yet to be determined for most dinosaur species, the new findings suggest that pigment-producing structures go beyond how they looked and may have played a fundamental role inside their bodies too.

Palaeobiologists at University College Cork (UCC) found colour-controlling melanin in melanosomes - tiny structures found in animal cells - throughout dinosaurs’ bodies.

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New discoveries of dinosaurs ’ colours and patterns are revealing how these ancient technicolour beasts lived .

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Melanin is the pigment that gives external organs and tissue such hair and eyes their colour. Skin is darker when there are higher levels of melanin, which is also believed to provide a barrier against UV damage caused by the Sun’s rays.

Scientists believe that external melanosomes could be the key to more accurately reconstructing the appearance of fossilised birds, reptiles and dinosaurs - and the discovery of the melanin-containing structures internally suggests they may reveal further characteristics as well.

“We’ve found it in places where we didn’t think it existed,” said Dr Maria McNamara, who co-led the new research - outlined in a paper in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

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The microraptor was a four-winged carnivorous dinosaur with iridescent black feathers. But if our information about this dinosaur comes from Len Bloch shows how making sense of the evidence requires careful examination of the fossil and a good understanding of the physics of light and color .

The colorful dinosaur lived 161 million years ago during the Jurassic Period of earth’s history. The shape of those structures appears to have influenced what color the feathers would have. Round- shaped structures in the Caihong fossil show that it had feathers similar to that of a modern

“We’ve found melanosomes in lungs, the heart, liver, spleen, connective tissues, kidneys. They’re pretty much everywhere.”

The chemical signatures of melanosomes were different according to which organ they came from, meaning scientists may be able to map the inner tissue of ancient vertebrates.

The discovery of melanin in internal tissue suggests “intimate links” with dinosaurs’ metabolism and regulation of the chemical and physical state of their bodies.

The findings also raise questions about melanin’s function in other animals - including humans.

“There’s the potential that melanin didn’t evolve for colour at all,” said McNamara. “That role may actually be secondary to much more important physiological functions.”

Other researchers agree that there is more to animal colour than visual means such as signalling, mating and camouflage, says Horizon magazine.

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Dinosaurs are depicted as naked, scaly reptiles, but evidence shows they were much more bird-like. Analytical cookies help us to understand how visitors gain access to or read our content and interact Generated when a user visits a live blog stream for the first time in order to associate engagement

From colorful shells to hatchling feeding habits, fossils are revealing ever deeper links between dinosaurs and today's birds. “It seems that nonavian dinosaur eggshells had a diversity of egg color that pretty much equals what we see in modern bird eggs,” Wiemann says.

“For example, how do colours affect thermoregulation? Flight? Such functions may be complementary to, or even more significant, than purely visual functions,” said Dr Matthew Shawkey, an evolutionary biologist at Ghent University in Belgium.

Dr Steve Brusatte, a vertebrate palaeontologist and evolutionary biologist at the University of Edinburgh, said: “What started as a novelty of deciphering dinosaur colours has turned into a very serious field which is studying the origins of key pigment systems.”

It could reveal “how the evolution of colourful structures may have helped drive major evolutionary transitions like the origin of flight, and how colour is related to ecology and sexual selection”, added Dr Brusatte.

New synchrotron X-ray techniques were used by scientists to analyse the chemical make-up of fossils, revealing the never-before-seen internal melanin.

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