Plumage Color Patterns of an Extinct Dinosaur

Quanguo Li, Ke-Qin Gao, Jakob Vinther, Matthew D Shawkey, Julia A Clarke, Liliana D'Alba, Qinjing Meng, Derek E G Briggs, Richard O Prum

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

170 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

For as long as dinosaurs have been known to exist, there has been speculation about their
appearance. Fossil feathers can preserve the morphology of color-imparting melanosomes, which
allow color patterns in feathered dinosaurs to be reconstructed. Here, we have mapped feather
color patterns in a Late Jurassic basal paravian theropod dinosaur. Quantitative comparisons
with melanosome shape and density in extant feathers indicate that the body was gray and dark
and the face had rufous speckles. The crown was rufous, and the long limb feathers were white
with distal black spangles. The evolution of melanin-based within-feather pigmentation patterns
may coincide with that of elongate pennaceous feathers in the common ancestor of Maniraptora,
before active powered flight. Feathers may thus have played a role in sexual selection or other
communication.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1369-1372
JournalScience
Volume327
Issue number5971
Early online date4 Feb 2010
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 12 Mar 2010

Keywords

  • dinosaur
  • color
  • melanosome
  • melanin
  • feather
  • evolution

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