Volume 89 Issue 28 | p. 36
Issue Date: July 11, 2011

Ancient Pigments Leave Metal Clues

Metallic traces on fossils hint at the shade of feathers adorning extinct birds and dinosaurs
Department: Science & Technology
Keywords: fossil, birds, dinosaurs, color

A 120 million-year-old fossil of one of Earth’s first birds still has a chemical fingerprint of feather pigments that researchers have detected using X-ray spectroscopy. Because plumage is important for avian camouflage, communication, and sexual reproduction, the pigmentation patterns of these ancient animals provide biologists with important clues to avian evolution.

Researchers led by Roy A. Wogelius at the University of Manchester detected traces of copper and zinc in a beautifully preserved fossil of . . .

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Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
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