Paleontologists uncover chemical traces of pigmentation for prehistoric bird, fish and squid fossils.
Scientists now have concrete proof that dinosaur-era animals had colorful, patterned exteriors.
Chemical traces, such as copper, leave behind biomarkers of pigment in the feathers of fossilized species.
Information about pigmentation may also shed light on extinct animals' diets, environments and more.
The world's first birds, along with dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals, likely sported colorful, patterned exteriors.
Paleontologists have long speculated that such animals were colorful, but finding concrete evidence has been challenging, given that most specimens consist of drab fossilized bones.
Now a scientific team has discovered patterned chemical traces of a pigment, an important component of color, in the remains of species that lived up to 120 million years ago.The findings were described in a new paper in the latest issue of Science Express.
"Color is only what we see," co-author Phil Manning told Discovery News, explaining that it's "a function of structure, chemistry and interplay of light. A bright red apple in sunlight has color, but the same apple has no color in a pitch-black room, as no light is interacting with its surface to yield color."