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Re: PALEONEWS: Did dinosaurs come in different colors?



        This summer I got to see what appear to be preserved dinosaur
*stripes*, believe it or not, one of the few cases I know of any truly
ancient animals preserving a coloration pattern. Well, actually I don't
know of any others. Unfortunately, these are Eocene (i.e. avian). They are
a series of bands on the tail feathers of a Green River Formation bird, so
far undescribed but on display in a national park (I've already forgotten
the name of it, but I visited it this summer- it consists of a whole bunch
of petrified stumps up to something like 4 meters in diameter). Whether or
not these feather bands represent actual coloration, I don't know- I
suppose it would depend on whether the dark banding represents the actual
pigment (melanin?) or just a breakdown by-product of something or other
staining those parts of the fossil.
        I suppose you could do antibody testing for pigment compounds-
would they be stable enough to stick around? But as anybody out there
who's mucked around with paint can tell you, it's all about the
proportions, and I seriously doubt if you could get much beyond, say,
simple presence or absence of pigments. And then feathers often generate
color not with pigment but with iridescence. But would that kind of
microstructure be preserved? We're talking about structure on the order of
light wavelengths, right- nanometers? (I should know this, but I spent a
lot of time goofing off in physics >;)

        -N