Dinosaurs found in China had colorful, striped feathers, scientists declare

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Jurassic and jazzy

Some dinosaurs had russet-colored feathers, and one jazzy specimen had a Mohawk crest and stripes, researchers say in the first reports to confidently assign colors to dinosaurs.

In the new study, reported in the online edition of the journal Science, scientists focused on melanosomes, cell components that impart color. They were able to assign color to individual feathers and thus work out color patterns for the entire fossil of Anchiornis huxleyi, a small, feathered, two-legged dinosaur that lived roughly 150 million years ago. The animal weighed about four ounces and appears to have had a dark gray or black body and wings with some white feathers that gave it a stripe pattern, plus a reddish-brown crest and speckles on the face.

"This was no crow or sparrow, but a creature with a very notable plumage," said Richard O. Prum, a professor of ornithology at Yale University and a co-author of the study. "This would be a very striking animal if it was alive today," Prum said in a statement. He speculated that the animals' color pattern could have served as a signal to attract mates.

The specimen was found in China, which was also the home 125 million years ago of Sinosauropteryx, a creature that seems to have had russet-colored feathers.

-- Associated Press

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