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Masked Dinosaur

October 30, 2017

Remnants of pigments in the fossils of dinosaur feathers provide clues to how they looked and behaved in life.

Transcript

Figure 2_preview

Artist’s rendition of Sinosauropteryx. (Smithwick, et al. 2017)

BOB HIRSHON (host):

A masked dinosaur. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

A small, feathered dinosaur that lived 124 million years ago in China had a mask like that of a modern-day raccoon, according to a report in the journal Current Biology. The researchers re-constructed the animal’s color patterns by analyzing the microstructure of pigments preserved in its fossils. The reptile, called Sinosauropteryx, likely used the mask to disguise its eyes, according to University of Bristol paleontologist Fiann Smithwick.

FIANN SMITHWICK (University of Bristol):

If you can hide your eye it might make you a more efficient predator – you can sneak up on animals – or it might make you harder to detect if you are a prey item.

HIRSHON:

He says the dinosaur also had a long, striped tail, as well as a dark back and light underside: a camouflage pattern common in today’s animals, making them appear less three-dimensional when viewed from the side. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Susanne Bard