Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Dinosaurs of a Feather

Via LiveScience:

"Artists may now be able to paint dinosaurs and ancient birds and mammals in their true colors, thanks to the discovery of pigment residues in fossilized feathers.

In recent years, paleontologists have found fossil feathers in about 50 rock formations pegged to dates ranging from the Jurassic period (from about 200 million to 150 million years ago) to the late Tertiary (from 65 million to about 2 million years ago).

These feathers are preserved as residues of carbon that were previously thought to be traces of feather-degrading bacteria.

A new study of some of these residues, detailed in the journal Biology Letters, found that these microscopic organic imprints are actually fossilized melanosomes, tiny organelles found inside pigment cells that produce melanin pigment.

Melanin is what determines our hair, eye and skin color and gives birds' feathers their spectacular range of hues. "

Neat, huh? This reminds me of a program I saw which speculated about how one day we may be able to genetically engineer birds into dinosaur lookalikes. It highlighted the discover that chickens still retain the genes to make teeth (they are simply "turned off"). It may not be too far fetched to dream about going to a real life Jurassic Park one day, filled with highly accurate pseudo-dinos.

1 comment:

Lui said...


As you mention, dinosaurs - or at least dinosaur look-alikes - may one day be engineered by switching on certain genes in birds. Perhaps some day the human-chimp ancestor can also be "resurrected" in this way, though I wonder what all the ethical implications involved in that might be.