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Re: Black Feather Colour in Archaeopteryx



On 10/11/2011, at 3:27 PM, Mike Keesey wrote:

> On Wed, Nov 9, 2011 at 6:43 PM, Dann Pigdon <dannj@alphalink.com.au> wrote:
>> 
>> As reported in New Scientist:
>> 
>> [Ryan] Carney and colleagues used scanning electron microscopy and 
>> energy-dispersive X-ray
>> analyses to detect the melanosomes [of an Archaeopteryx feather], then 
>> compared this data to
>> similar feathers in a database of 87 modern bird species. The feather, he 
>> says, was most probably
>> black. While the full colour pattern of Archaeopteryx has yet to be 
>> uncovered, Carney noted that
>> melanosomes on the black feather have structural properties which may have 
>> strengthened the
>> feathers for the demands of flight. The miniscule structures which hide the 
>> secrets of prehistoric
>> colour were not just for show.
>> 
>> http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn21146-archaeopteryx-was-robed-in-black.html
> 
> Awe-inspiring work!
> 
> BUT ... since this specimen is an isolated feather, isn't it more
> accurate to say that some Solnhofen aviremigian, *possibly
> Archaeopteryx*, had at least some black feathers?

There is an old philosophy joke: Russell and Moore, two philosophers, are 
travelling through Scotland by train, and Russell is trying to convince Moore 
that induction fails, as Hume had argued. Moore tries to get Russell to make 
some generalisations based on a finite number of observations. They pass a 
flock of sheep. "Russell!," says Moore, "Surely you can say something about the 
colour of the sheep in Scotland!" "Yes," replies Russell, "some sheep in 
Scotland are white." He pauses for a while, and then adds, "On one side..."

-- 
John Wilkins | john@wilkins.id.au
Associate, Philosophy, University of Sydney; visiting fellow, UNSW
"Were all men philosophers, the business of life could not be executed, and
neither society, nor even the species, could long exist." William Smellie, 1791
Species: A history of the idea http://www.ucpress.edu/books/pages/11391.php