Pretty polly - news story - 12 Jun 2013

Archaeopteryx feathers get a make-over

Colour and pattern are two things which are very difficult to determine from fossils. It's only relatively recently any insights have been made. The early bird-relative Archaeopteryx is a not just a famous fossil, but an icon of science, and it's nice to see we are still learning from it.

The detection of melanosomes allows the plotting of pigment traces and therefore patternation. Colour is harder to work out, but the degree of pigmentation gives some idea. Archaeopteryx feathers had been thought black, but further research shows a flight feather was 'light in colour with areas of darker pigment along one edge and on the tip.'

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