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Dinosaur Colors

September 2, 2015

Pigments preserved in fossils may reveal the color of dinosaurs.




A fossil of a bird-like dinosaur, Anchioris huxleyi,with evidence of pigment and the subcellular organelles that made it. (Thierry Hubin/RBINS)

Dinosaur colors. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Paleontologists agree that many dinosaurs had feathers, but what color were they? Brown University researcher Ryan Carney and his colleagues report in the journal Scientific Reports that they’ve confirmed the presence of black pigments in a dinosaur feather fossil using new chemical analysis methods.

RYAN CARNEY (Brown University):

Now is an exciting time, to be able to leverage these new analytical techniques for looking into the past and trying to reconstruct the full palette of colors to the best extent possible.


The team compared the fossil pigment chemical structure to pigments from both modern animals and bacteria, and confirmed they came from the dinosaur, and not bacteria contaminating the fossil. Now they’ll look for traces of pigment in other fossils, and gradually replace some of the current guesswork about dinosaur skin and feather color with evidence. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.