Offbeat: How colour shaped dinosaurs’ lives - PressFrom - Canada
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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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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 .

Dinosaurs experimented with feather designs and shapes . Vinther recently re-examined fossils of a dinosaur called Anchiornis, from the Jurassic. In 2017, lasers were used to study traces of soft tissue from Anchiornis and revealed a four-winged dinosaur with drumstick shaped legs, padded feet, a

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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This dinosaur was actually bigger in real life , although not by much. The reality is somewhat stranger: They actually resembled porcupines. Some paleontologists believe that several nipple- shaped protrusions in their skin suggest where bristles would have been.

Which dinosaurs certainly had feathers, and which dinosaurs might have? When I first started working in the life sciences, the idea that familiar dinosaurs like the Tyrannosaurs or the Triceratops might have feathers had not entered Most dinosaurs that had feathers did not use them to fly.

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 new science of paleocolour is shining a light into what dinosaurs looked like and how they lived . Paleoartist Robert Nicholls is modelling the head of a Tyrannosaurus-Rex. A fossil skull dictated the shape of the head but the colour is, at present, informed guesswork.

The microraptor was a four-winged carnivorous dinosaur with iridescent black feathers. But if our information about this dinosaur comes from fossils, how can we be certain about its color ? Len Bloch shows how making sense of the evidence requires careful examination of the fossil and a good.

“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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Dinosaur bones grew like those of other vertebrates, by adding new bone matter to the outside of the bone. The growth lines also offer a guide to a dinosaur 's growth rate at different stages of its life . It is now understood that most dinosaurs grew for a large part of their lives , with a particularly rapid spurt

In real life , many of the dinosaurs vary in size and are often covered in feathers, but a few of them actually don't look that different. One of the most terrifying new dinosaurs introduced in "Jurassic World" is the Mosasaurus, which makes even a great white shark look tiny.

“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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