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Jurassic paravian feather composition and structure (free pdf)



Ben Creisler
bcreisler@gmail.com


A new open access paper:


Johan Lindgren, Peter Sjövall, Ryan M. Carney, Aude Cincotta, Per
Uvdal, Steven W. Hutcheson, Ola Gustafsson, Ulysse Lefèvre, François
Escuillié, Jimmy Heimdal, Anders Engdahl, Johan A. Gren, Benjamin P.
Kear, Kazumasa Wakamatsu, Johan Yans & Pascal Godefroit (2015)
Molecular composition and ultrastructure of Jurassic paravian feathers
Scientific Reports 5, Article number: 13520 (2015)
doi:10.1038/srep13520
http://www.nature.com/articles/srep13520

Feathers are amongst the most complex epidermal structures known, and
they have a well-documented evolutionary trajectory across non-avian
dinosaurs and basal birds. Moreover, melanosome-like microbodies
preserved in association with fossil plumage have been used to
reconstruct original colour, behaviour and physiology. However, these
putative ancient melanosomes might alternatively represent
microorganismal residues, a conflicting interpretation compounded by a
lack of unambiguous chemical data. We therefore used sensitive
molecular imaging, supported by multiple independent analytical tests,
to demonstrate that the filamentous epidermal appendages in a new
specimen of the Jurassic paravian Anchiornis comprise remnant
eumelanosomes and fibril-like microstructures, preserved as endogenous
eumelanin and authigenic calcium phosphate. These results provide
novel insights into the early evolution of feathers at the
sub-cellular level, and unequivocally determine that melanosomes can
be preserved in fossil feathers.