A guide to the field of palaeo colour: Melanin and other pigments can fossilise: Reconstructing colour patterns from ancient organisms can give new insights to ecology and behaviour

Jakob Vinther*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

68 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Melanin, and other pigments have recently been shown to preserve over geologic time scales, and are found in several different organisms. This opens up the possibility of inferring colours and colour patterns ranging from invertebrates to feathered dinosaurs and mammals. An emerging discipline is palaeo colour: colour plays an important role in display and camouflage as well as in integumental strengthening and protection, which makes possible the hitherto difficult task of doing inferences about past ecologies, behaviours, and organismal appearance. Several studies and techniques have been presented in the last couple of years that have described ways to characterize pigment patterns. Here, I will review the available methods and the likely applications to understand past ecologies. A golden age of colourized dinosaurs and other animals is now dawning upon us, which may elucidate the nature of ancient predator prey interactions and display structures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)643-656
Number of pages14
JournalBioEssays
Volume37
Issue number6
Early online date8 Apr 2015
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2015

Bibliographical note

© 2015 WILEY Periodicals, Inc.

Keywords

  • Camouflage
  • Dinosaur
  • Display
  • Melanin
  • Melanosome
  • Pigment

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