Washington, Feb 5 (ANI): In a new research, scientists have for the first time uncovered the vibrant color palette of a feathered dinosaur, which dates back to 150 million years.
The research, conducted by a team of scientists from Yale University, US, analyzed color-imparting structures called melanosomes from an entire fossil of a single animal, a feat which enabled researchers to reveal rich color patterns of the entire animal.
The animal in question is Anchiornis huxleyi, a four-winged troodontid dinosaur that lived during the late Jurassic period in China.
The analysis of melanosomes conducted by Yale team was so precise that the team was able to assign colors to individual feathers of the dinosaur.
The team closely examined 29 feather samples from the dinosaur and did an exhaustive measurement and location of melanosomes within the feathers.
The team then did a statistical analysis of how those melanosomes compared to the types of melanosomes known to create particular colors in living birds, using data compiled by Matt Shawkey and colleagues at the University of Akron.
The analysis allowed scientists to discern with 90 percent certainty the colors of individual feathers and, therefore, the colorful patterns of an extinct animal.
This dinosaur sported a generally gray body, a reddish-brown, Mohawk-like crest and facial speckles, and white feathers on its wings and legs, with bold black-spangled tips.
"This was no crow or sparrow, but a creature with a very notable plumage," said Richard O. Prum, chair and the William Robertson Coe Professor of Ornithology, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Yale and a co-author of the study.
"This would be a very striking animal if it was alive today," he added.
The color patterns of the limbs, which strongly resemble those sported by modern day Spangled Hamburg chickens, probably functioned in communication and may have helped the dinosaur to attract mates, suggested Prum.
The research adds significant weight to the idea that dinosaurs first evolved feathers not for flight but for some other purposes.
"This means a color-patterning function - for example, camouflage or display - must have had a key role in the early evolution of feathers in dinosaurs, and was just as important as evolving flight or improved aerodynamic function," said Julia Clarke, an associate professor of paleontology at the University of Texas at Austin's Jackson School of Geosciences.
The study documents that color patterning within feathers and among feathers evolved earlier than previously believed.
Further, these results indicate dinosaur feathers may have evolved for communication. (ANI)