[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index][Subject Index][Author Index]
PALEONEWS: Did dinosaurs come in different colors?
This is a CNN custom news article.
CNN has recently changed formats so I can not give you the URL.
I recommend registering at cnn.com for your own custom news to
access the article online- -Betty
"Did dinosaurs come in different colors? What did their skin look like?"
asks Jessica Munoz, a student in Woodside, N.Y.
For many years, paleontologists had only fossilized bones to help them
figure out what dinosaurs looked like. Skin and other soft tissue
usually decays and vanishes without a trace.
Recently, however, scientists have found exciting new pieces of the
dinosaur puzzle. In New Mexico a few years ago, paleontologists
discovered, along with a scattering of fossilized bones, a set of
dinosaur skin impressions.
Imagine that you had a pet lizard, and you gently pressed its skin into
the mud. The pattern in the mud would match the actual pattern of its
skin. In the case of the dinosaurs, the skin pattern was an impression
in fossilized rock, and it shows us exactly what one duck-billed
dinosaur -- called a hadrosaur -- was wearing over its bones.
The hadrosaur's skin, scientists found, was covered with ridged bumps
like miniature volcanoes or rosette flowers. One scientist said that if
you had petted this hadrosaur, its skin would have felt like the knobby
tire of a mountain bike.
Other scientists made a thrilling find in Argentina: fossilized unborn
baby dinosaurs. Scientists had found fossilized eggs with embryos inside
before, but those were meat-eaters, like Tyrannosaurus rex. The new eggs
contained the first baby sauropods ever found. (Sauropods were huge,
lumbering dinosaurs that munched on plants and leaves. The big,
gentle-looking Brontosaurus was a sauropod.) Besides one embryo that
sported 32 little teeth, scientists found fossilized skin. It showed
that the dino babies had tiny, lizard-like scales, with a band of larger
scales running down the center of their backs like a stripe.
Other skin impressions show the dinosaur Diplodocus covered with hard
bumps the size of pinheads. Hadrosaurus had pebbly skin, like the
surface of a football.
But what color was all this skin, you ask? The answer is, no one knows,
so movie and museum dinosaurs are created from people's best guesses.
Since dinosaurs were reptiles, many paint them the colors of today's
lizards or crocodiles -- various shades of brown and green and tan.
Skin impressions reveal texture, not color; the real skin, with its
coloring pigment, is usually long gone. But in the past few years,
scientists have found pigment cells from an ancient fish, preserved in
silt. They determined that the fish, a 370-million-year-old placoderm,
was red on top and iridescent silver on the bottom.
Dinosaur pigments -- "only" 65 to 150 million years old -- probably
exist also, scientists say, and they can't wait to find them. When they
do, we may be in for a shock. Many scientists believe that birds are the
direct descendants of dinosaurs. And birds come in all colors of the
rainbow, from red and yellow to sea-green, bright blue and iridescent
Scientists say that some dinosaurs may have been brightly colored, too,
making them more attractive to the opposite sex. If they're right,
Barney, the big purple TV dinosaur, may not be so strange after all.
Flying Goat Graphics
(Society of Vertebrate Paleontology member)