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Researchers Find Color In Fossils

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the any-color-as-long-as-it's-black dept.

Science 77

Science News has a look at the latest paleontological fashion: what may be the remains of pigment in fossilized feathers 100 million years old. The material in question is believed to be black melanin, on the evidence of its similarity in scanning-microscope images to the modern pigment. The researchers are hopeful of identifying other varieties of melanin, which provide red or yellow coloration; and also possibly of spotting fossilized nanostructures of melanin that create iridescent patterns in some modern animals.

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Not subscriber, or not subscribed page (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24460213)

You can't see this story because it's scheduled in the future, where only subscribers can see it.

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Question (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24461029)

Can this be used as oil? If so, when can it be put into use? If not, why should I give a fuck?

background? (1, Interesting)

Bender_ (179208) | more than 6 years ago | (#24460247)

ok? So why is this so special? I understand melanin may degrade easily, but hasn't a lot of similar organic matter been found in fossils earlier?

Re:background? (5, Informative)

ksd1337 (1029386) | more than 6 years ago | (#24460269)

This will help us in creating more accurate simulated images of these animals.

Re:background? (4, Funny)

Alsee (515537) | more than 6 years ago | (#24460661)

Quick! Someone go lobby congress for more science funding on behalf of the Hollywood studios!

It would probably work.

-

This is very, very important!!! (-1)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 6 years ago | (#24460777)

Yeah right. Who cares what color the dinosaurs were? They are all dead now. Will this cause you to change what breakfast cereal you eat?

Re:This is very, very important!!! (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24460903)

No, but it may change the color of the dinosaur on the cereal box.

Re:This is very, very important!!! (3, Funny)

Drinking Bleach (975757) | more than 6 years ago | (#24461173)

Unless it turns out that dinosaurs really were purple and green.

Re:This is very, very important!!! (4, Insightful)

phulegart (997083) | more than 6 years ago | (#24461171)

I suppose it is part of learning about the past.

I suppose that it is all about not wanting to remain ignorant.

I suppose it is an extension of "Those who fail to remember history are doomed to repeat it." Now, I'm sure plenty of ignorant people will reply about how we don't need to know about what color dinosaurs were to avoid following in their footsteps... and they would be right. However, once we start standardizing what parts of our past we don't need to learn about, the list grows until it includes things we SHOULD learn about and remember...

Then there is the whole thing about pigmentation, and if we find what pigmentation survives fossilization, we can make better, more permanent inks. It might turn out that creatures of a certain color lasted longer than others did, which could in turn assist our survival. Who knows what we could learn from this... except we know we can learn nothing from it if we don't study it.

But I doubt that even occurred to you.

you know.. all that bogus stuff that deals with knowledge.

Re:This is very, very important!!! (3, Interesting)

whong09 (1307849) | more than 6 years ago | (#24463261)

I'd have to respectfully disagree with you on this. Knowing the color of dinosaurs in the past is not important, and putting time and effort into researching this is a mismanagement of resources. Instead of figuring out something so unimportant, we should be trying to figure out more important things. There are plenty of fields that need much more funding that can deliver useful results soon such as energy related science and technology. Funding scientists to study color pigments in fossils would divert crucial resources from more important subjects. Also you say that standardizing parts of our past that we don't know about would be a mistake. I agree with you on this, but deciding here and now that the color of dinosaurs is not that important right now and should not be funded for the time being is in no way standardizing anything. We could always decide later that this information is actually important and revise our earlier decision. The point is that choosing to fund something that isn't important (as you yourself admitted) solely out of fear of later misjudging the importance of knowing something is illogical and makes little sense. But of course, scientists particularly interested in this are free to study to their hearts content. Just don't let them suck money from other scientists whose work will definitely benefit humanity in a huge way.

Re:This is very, very important!!! (2, Interesting)

phulegart (997083) | more than 6 years ago | (#24464467)

You do make a very good point, but I'd like to point out that a big part of the reason why newer energy technologies are not being researched, has nothing whatsoever to do with funding. It doesn't matter a whit if money is going to scientists studying this fossilized pigmentation.

Since the early 60's, a gentleman in Arizona has been converting internal combustion engines of all types to run on hydrogen. The reason why this technology has not been explored more has nothing to do with funding, and everything to do with large companies that deal in oil having the money to pay lobbyists to push their interests through congress, fund research to further the use of their product, and having the power and money to squash things like Hydrogen Technology. I've seen the guys videos, I've read his literature, I've met the man. His simplest demonstration really says it all. He simply removes the carb from a Briggs and Stratton engine, sticks a feed from a tank of hydrogen directly into the hole left behind, opens the tank and starts the engine. How fast the engine goes is decided by how much hydrogen he lets flow into the engine. He doesn't even modify anything (unless pulling the carb off is modification).

Also, the US government in the late 80's funded a research project that studied how often cows chew their cud. This project received $250,000. At about the same time, the US government funded a study into how often people smile in bowling alleys. This project received $375,000. These amounts of money might be drops in the bucket, however, these two projects are both far more useless than studying pigmentation in something we thought previously lacked pigmentation... namely fossils. And there are far more projects receiving money out there that are just as ludicrous as cud chewing or pleasant bowling alleys. I dunno.

So it's one thing when worthy projects are competing for the same money as unworthy projects. It's another when money is actively being spent to suppress technologies that would supplant the suppressor. In the case of energy tech, there have always been large entities that do not want us researching alternate ways of putting them out of business.

Re:This is very, very important!!! (1)

QuoteMstr (55051) | more than 6 years ago | (#24464627)

No. The reason hydrogen hasn't been seriously considered are that it:

  • has a terrible energy density
  • is explosive
  • leaks out of most tanks, joints, and seals

As an energy transfer medium, you'd be hard-pressed to do worse that hydrogen. That there are people on this site who still believe the trite crap about hydrogen is disturbing. I hope you don't write software, or that I don't use the software you do write: the sloppy thinking you exhibit in the above post is likely to spill over into other areas of your life.

I call ... (1)

Bloke down the pub (861787) | more than 6 years ago | (#24466043)

As an energy transfer medium, you'd be hard-pressed to do worse that hydrogen.

How about cow poo? Cow poo is probably worse:

- Low energy density.
- Slow and mostly invariant energy release via intermediate substances.
- Smells. Smells like poo.

A closely related substance [jelks.nu] does have one major advantage - it's apparently available in virtually infinite quantities.

Re:This is very, very important!!! (1)

phulegart (997083) | more than 6 years ago | (#24475249)

Actually the Sterling Engine that uses a small "sealed" container of hydrogen to transfer the heat from the focal point to where it heats water to steam, is quite efficient. Hydrogen is one of the best materials for transfer of heat.

And as far as being explosive... this is true. But I hope to Zeus that you aren't one of those nuts who believes that the Hindenburg blew up because of Hydrogen. I've watched demonstrations in how a hydrogen leak is not dangerous, because of how fast it dissipates. It also doesn't hang around an accident scene in spill form, like gasoline. For example, a car in an accident with a ruptured fuel tank is a hazard, because the fuel spreads, and will ignite, spreading the fire. A hydrogen gas powered car with a ruptured fuel tank loses fuel. That's all. It dissipates too quickly to be a hazard. I've got to believe what I've seen with my own eyes. Now... a small rupture will expel the gas at force. So that is an issue. Gasoline isn't under nearly the pressure.

But a fuel that is more explosive than gasoline, and produces free oxygen and water vapor as an exhaust, and cleans the air of pollutants as it burns... that's a win win win over gasoline. More bang for the buck, and you could leave the vehicle running overnight in your garage, producing electricity for your home, running on the garden hose you have in your tank, being converted to HHO gas by electrolysis.

I suppose you've never seen the Brown Gas cutting torches either.

Re:This is very, very important!!! (1)

kesuki (321456) | more than 6 years ago | (#24474357)

"Also, the US government in the late 80's funded a research project that studied how often cows chew their cud. This project received $250,000. At about the same time, the US government funded a study into how often people smile in bowling alleys. This project received $375,000. These amounts of money might be drops in the bucket, however, these two projects are both far more useless than studying pigmentation in something we thought previously lacked pigmentation... namely fossils."

my favorite government pork is the 'bridge to nowhere' not only did the government allocate over 200 million dollars to the project, the state scrapped building the bridge because the actual cost was double what they got!

i wouldn't bank on the federal government getting a refund on that cash either.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gravina_Island_Bridge [wikipedia.org]

Re:This is very, very important!!! (1)

orasio (188021) | more than 6 years ago | (#24479413)

What you say doesn't make sense.
Research doesn't have to be incremental. If all research had to have an obvious purpose for you, by its own definition, science could not go further than what you are able to grasp. I don't think we can afford that.

For instance, you talk about studying cows chewing as something ridiculous. There is a lot of research like that, for two main purposes. One is improving productivity. The cow is a beef making machine, and knowing how it works can obviously improve yield. That means money, and an incrementally reduced chance of starving.
The other is global warming. The cows digestion involves a lot of gas. Cows expel lots of greenhouse gasses, large enough to mess with Kyoto protocol compliance, if you actually cared about that. Knowing how they process the food can help in reducing that emissions.

Of course, you are not supposed to understand it, but the fact that you don't, isn't, and shouldn't be a prerequisite for funding.

Re:This is very, very important!!! (2)

QuoteMstr (55051) | more than 6 years ago | (#24464609)

I'll concede that knowing dinosaur colors won't help us a damn bit. But not every outlet of government spending has to have an immediate tangible payback.

That's not the point. Funding artists doesn't help our society in the ways you demand. Neither do war memorials, publicly-financed philosophy departments, or Antarctic research stations.

However, as a society we believe these pursuits to have intrinsic value. If we are to pursue them, government must help, as not having any tangible benefit, businesses won't touch these programs. And why should they? Government ought to be a manifestation of what we consider important, and when the government funds programs like these, it's working well.

Re:This is very, very important!!! (1)

Skjellifetti (561341) | more than 6 years ago | (#24467829)

Not important to who? You? Tough. It is of interest to me and I am quite happy to fund such studies. Curiosity is reason enough to spend money on this and similar research projects. Besides, such research spending is minuscule compared to spending on such frivolities (to me, anyway) as, say, the ISS. I can't imagine that most of the other Big Science projects that have sucked funding from everything small (CERN's Hadron Collider or the Human Genome Project) in the past decade or two would really miss the few $100K needed to study dinosaur coloration.

Re:This is very, very important!!! (1)

whong09 (1307849) | more than 6 years ago | (#24463291)

edit: forgive my horrible formatting. I just realized that /. comment entry is completely html.
I'd have to respectfully disagree with you on this. Knowing the color of dinosaurs in the past is not important, and putting time and effort into researching this is a mismanagement of resources. Instead of figuring out something so unimportant, we should be trying to figure out more important things. There are plenty of fields that need much more funding that can deliver useful results soon such as energy related science and technology. Funding scientists to study color pigments in fossils would divert crucial resources from more important subjects.

Also you say that standardizing parts of our past that we don't know about would be a mistake. I agree with you on this, but deciding here and now that the color of dinosaurs is not that important right now and should not be funded for the time being is in no way standardizing anything. We could always decide later that this information is actually important and revise our earlier decision.

The point is that choosing to fund something that isn't important (as you yourself admitted) solely out of fear of later misjudging the importance of knowing something is illogical and makes little sense.

But of course, scientists particularly interested in this are free to study to their hearts content. Just don't let them suck money from other scientists whose work will definitely benefit humanity in a huge way.

Re:This is very, very important!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24464211)

What if dinosaurs were invisible, and we carelessly replicate them without knowing. That might be the Doom of civilization!!!

I, for one, welcome our invisible, reptilian overlords.

Re:This is very, very important!!! (2, Interesting)

elgatozorbas (783538) | more than 6 years ago | (#24464711)

Even simpler than that: it is cool to find out stuff, regardless of its importance (as initially perceived!).

Re:This is very, very important!!! (1)

phat_cartman (1255042) | more than 6 years ago | (#24465855)

It might turn out that creatures of a certain color lasted longer than others did, which could in turn assist our survival.

They prefer the term Pangaean-Americans, thank you very much.

Re:This is very, very important!!! (1)

ChrisA90278 (905188) | more than 6 years ago | (#24469729)

The reason you study the past is really so you can understand the present. To most of us it's the present that maters. We study the historic past so that maybe we don't repeat those mistakes but learn from them instead.

Understanding the present natural world would be much easier if we had 20 other earth-like planets each slightly different then we could do a comparative study and understand how things like being more hot or colder and more or lass rain affects life. What a boon to environmental science having 20 other Earths would be. But we don't have them. Or do we? Actually we do have them. If we look backwards in the past we have any number of different earths each with it's own set of life and conditions and it's own eco system.

Re:background? (5, Funny)

gregbot9000 (1293772) | more than 6 years ago | (#24461181)

So this could rule out purple and green dinosaurs, yellow protoceratops, and orange hadrosaurs. What next? You're going to tell me that dinosaurs didn't sing and dance with little children, were taller than 6' 2" and weren't overflowing with uncomfortable kindness?

Re:background? (1)

aetherworld (970863) | more than 6 years ago | (#24462941)

Could this be used to extract full strands of DNA? If so, could the extracted DNA be used to clone the original animal?

Re:background? (1)

WiFiBro (784621) | more than 6 years ago | (#24463875)

Can an imaging technique for pigments be used to extract DNA? I would be surprised.

Stupidity (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24460509)

This article is wrong. God created America and the world 3000 years ago, so these stupid scientists must be wrong about their dates!

Re:Stupidity (4, Funny)

easyTree (1042254) | more than 6 years ago | (#24460617)

You forgot to press your CAPS LOCK KEY before beginning to type...

Re:Stupidity (1)

A nonymous Coward (7548) | more than 6 years ago | (#24461031)

No, he's pressed it so many times that it is worn out.

Re:Stupidity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24461135)

Whoosh!

Re:Stupidity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24461223)

* <- joke
~ <- cloud
o \
+ - you
^ /
WHOOSH!

Re:Stupidity (1)

easyTree (1042254) | more than 6 years ago | (#24461515)

.<--*slap*
.<--'whoosh' comment
.<--deliberate misunderstanding to make joke
.<--me
.<--irony
.<--you
.<--backwards thinking

Re:background? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24460561)

So why is this so special? I understand melanin may degrade easily, but hasn't a lot of similar organic matter been found in fossils earlier?

Well, no. This is the first for colour, which is a pretty wild first. Not to mention that getting anything more than bone imprints is pretty new and exciting as well.

Quick review of how fossils form - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fossil#Types_of_preservation [wikipedia.org]

Mostly fossils are '3d rock shadows' of something imprinted millions of years ago. So while you understand melanin "may degrade easily", combine that understanding with the knowledge that these feather fossils are from something that died approximately *100 million years ago*. It's pretty wild to get colour info from that. Like much, much harder than getting useful specifications from Marketing.

And I guess it's special for /. because the BBC covered it a month ago...
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/7495961.stm [bbc.co.uk]

Re:background? (1)

RockDoctor (15477) | more than 6 years ago | (#24463703)

Well, no. This is the first for colour, which is a pretty wild first.

Actually, I think that's not the case, by around a decade. It might be a first for pigmentation, but pigmentation is IIRC only one of 7 different ways of giving an organism "colour". Without digging through the reference books, around 1998 some fossils were discovered that contained structures whose dimensions indicated the presence of diffraction gratings and other elements of "structural colours".

Re:background? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24461397)

Now we know what really killed the dinosaurs: Racism. That's right, Jim Crowasaurus was alive and well in the Mezozoic Era. The dinosaurs were a proud race of pigmented creatures that lived peacefully for 160 million years, until their genocide by racist mammals. Oh, sure, racist mammal scientists will claim that it was an asteroid impact or volcanoes that killed the dinosaurs, but it was really a concerted plot by the mammals to push dinosaurs into ghettos, then flood those ghettos with AIDS and crack cocaine. The racist mammal police always kept the dinosaurs down as well, profiling them on the basis of their pigmented leathery skin.

Now, how will we, as mammals, inheritors to a legacy of racism, atone for the crimes of our small furry ancestors? The only answer can be reparations to the dinosaurs. Given that our entire society is built on the horrors of the dinosaur genocide, I can only throw out a ballpark figure- say 100 trillion dollars- as small recompense for the atrocities of the past. As there are currently no dinosaurs to pay reparations to, I will humbly assume the burden of acting as custodian for this fund, only withdrawing maintenance fees as needed, and with the promise of paying out a fair share to any disadvantaged dinosaur who makes a claim.

ATTENTION SHOPPERS! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24460335)

ATTENTION SHOPPERS: PAY NO ATTENTION TO THE NECROTIC DOG PENIS. I REPEAT, PAY NO ATTENTION TO THE NECROTIC DOG PENIS CURRENTLY LOOMING OUTSIDE LOT 4. CONTINUE SHOPPING BUT PLEASE ENSURE YOU LEAVE VIA AN ALTERNATIVE EXIT AS WE ARE NO LONGER ABLE TO GUARANTEE YOUR SAFETY IN LOT 4, DUE TO THE NECROTIC DOG PENIS. FOR YOUR INFORMATION, LOTS 1, 2, 3, 5 AND 6 ARE CURRENTLY FREE OF BAYING NECROTIC DOG PENIS. PAY NO ATTENTION TO THE NECROTIC DOG PENIS. THANK YOU.

Lameness filter encountered. Post aborted! Lameness filter encountered. Post aborted! Lameness filter encountered. Post aborted! Lameness filter encountered. Post aborted! Lameness filter encountered. Post aborted! Lameness filter encountered. Post aborted! Lameness filter = censorship, lameness filter = censorship, lameness filter = censorship, lameness filter = censorship, lameness filter = censorship, lameness filter = censorship.

Your comment violated the "postercomment" compression filter. Try less whitespace and/or less repetition.

Re:ATTENTION SHOPPERS! (-1, Offtopic)

easyTree (1042254) | more than 6 years ago | (#24460657)

Lol. Disclaimer: No dbout I'm supposed to mod you troll or something but I found it humourous..

I get it (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24460347)

The dinosaurs were made extinct because they were black.

Kanye West says "God Doesn't Care About Blacks."

Re:I get it (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24460385)

Kanye West says "God Doesn't Care About Blacks."

Then god wouldn't have given them ultra-large penises which will steal your woman in the blink of an eye.

Re:I get it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24466441)

You're welcome to steal her, just don't bring her back k thx

Hokey Pokey Science Fiction if you ask me (5, Funny)

sleeponthemic (1253494) | more than 6 years ago | (#24460377)

I've seen the evidence. Color evolved when Dorothy was whisked away to OZ.

Re:Hokey Pokey Science Fiction if you ask me (4, Funny)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 6 years ago | (#24460665)

Yes. And, as Calvin's father [wikipedia.org] explained, old movies are in Black and White because back that's the way everything really was. We didn't start getting color movies, like The Wizard of Oz until color itself was invented.

Re:Hokey Pokey Science Fiction if you ask me (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24460859)

Yes. And, as Calvin's father [youtube.com] explained, old movies are in Black and White because back that's the way everything really was. We didn't start getting color movies, like The Wizard of Oz until color itself was invented.

Re:Hokey Pokey Science Fiction if you ask me (1, Informative)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 6 years ago | (#24461017)

Warning: do not click on the link in the above post unless you really want to be Rickrolled.

Re:Hokey Pokey Science Fiction if you ask me (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24461331)

I see fagdot moderation has reach a new low. Now we're modding people as a troll for warning people of things they may not want to deal with. What's next, Fagdot mods?

Re:Hokey Pokey Science Fiction if you ask me (1)

sleeponthemic (1253494) | more than 6 years ago | (#24461461)

If the warning was legitimate you'd probably have a point :)

Re:Hokey Pokey Science Fiction if you ask me (1)

CheshireFerk-o (412142) | more than 6 years ago | (#24462077)

am i the only one who needs to be rickrolled every now and then? i mean come on who dosent appreicate the impotent music of the 80's

Re:Hokey Pokey Science Fiction if you ask me (1)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 6 years ago | (#24462211)

Who doesn't appreciate the impotent music of the 80s? Those of us who remember the vigor and liveliness of the music of the 50s and early 60s, before the flower children castrated it.

Re:Hokey Pokey Science Fiction if you ask me (1)

Nazlfrag (1035012) | more than 6 years ago | (#24462979)

You obviously failed to listen to what the flower people said. Shhhh... [youtube.com]

Re:Hokey Pokey Science Fiction if you ask me (1)

Deadstick (535032) | more than 6 years ago | (#24466731)

We didn't start getting color movies, like The Wizard of Oz until color itself was invented.

Yeah, in fact you can watch that picture and see the change happen.

rj

First Colour Movie (1)

arthurpaliden (939626) | more than 6 years ago | (#24462053)

"Back in the day" my mother was taken to see a showing of "The Delhi Durbar" A colour documentary done by the BBC about 1912 because it was so expencive to make they would probably never make another colour film and my grandfather wanted all his kids to see at least one colur film in their lives.

Science is so cool (4, Insightful)

Telvin_3d (855514) | more than 6 years ago | (#24460515)

Science is so awesome, in the most original sense of the word. It inspires awe.
Look at what these people are doing. They have odd bits of animals that died uncountable millions of years ago (except they figured out ways of counting them) and put the bits back together. And now they think they can figure out what colour they were? That is fantastic!

Anyone who says that the knowledge of why and how things work somehow ruins the experience has no real wonder in their soul. There is nothing more awe inspiring than pulling back the curtain on some new piece of knowledge.

Re:Science is so cool (3, Informative)

kestasjk (933987) | more than 6 years ago | (#24460553)

"Unweaving the Rainbow" by Dawkins is all about this (The title is based on someone who said that by explaining how rainbows form Newton made them less wonderful)

Re:Science is so cool (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24460881)

LOL you have cancer.

Re:Science is so cool (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24462927)

Science is so awesome, in the most original sense of the word. It inspires awe.
Look at what these people are doing. They have odd bits of animals that died uncountable millions of years ago (except they figured out ways of counting them) and put the bits back together. And now they think they can figure out what colour they were? That is fantastic!

True. This reminds me of the proven fact that dinosaur soft tissues still survive [esciencenews.com] .

In unrelated news, what you see is not always what you get [plosjournals.org] .

That said, considering the latter link, the possibility that both linked articles are false is not to disregard. ;)

Guess I'm not so sure (0)

haltenfrauden27 (1338125) | more than 6 years ago | (#24460577)

I don't really understand why that is better than just getting the pigment out of a current animal's feathers or whatnot.

Don't get me wrong. I understand that it's a big deal to get anything out of something so old. It's just they're making a big deal out of what can then be done with the pigment, and that seems a bit silly.

Re:Guess I'm not so sure (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24460743)

I don't really understand why that is better than just getting the pigment out of a current animal's feathers or whatnot.

Yeah, why don't they jest go down to the store or some'n and buy a jar of pigment instead of messing with fossils and such.

Re:Guess I'm not so sure (1)

Drakonik (1193977) | more than 6 years ago | (#24460745)

Err...it's better than getting the pigment from a modern animal's feathers because the modern animals aren't 100 million year old proto-birds. You do know the difference between a fossil and a fresh corpse, right?

Old News..... (4, Funny)

IHC Navistar (967161) | more than 6 years ago | (#24460939)

I found this out a long time ago.....when I took color photographs of fossils!

Colour in fossils not exactly news ... (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24460973)

Usually there is no hint of the original colour preserved in fossils, but colour patterns have been found in plenty of fossils [sepmonline.org] of a variety of ages and types and have been known since at least the 1930s (check this book chapter [google.ca] ). Unfortunately there are no pictures in these web sources. You'll have to look up the sources on paper, sorry.

What sort of things preserve colour patterns? There are cone-shaped nautiloids from the Devonian of Germany with zig-zag and linear stripe patterns, snail and other shells [jstor.org] with stripes or spots, insects from Brazil (Cretaceous) and Utah (Eocene) whose wings have preserved colour patterns, and, as the article hints, bird feathers with colour patterns have been known for decades. Because they are only patterns, it isn't known what the original colours were (for all we know it could have been a boring brown versus grey or something exotic like green and purple), but it's better than nothing, and even finding the patterns is quite rare.

What's news in the posted article is only the part about the possibility of melanin or something derived from it being preserved. So, it's a bit of progress on what, exactly, is being preserved in these colour patterns.

There's one instance I know of where the actual colour of the ancient creature is preserved as a fossil: a beetle [jstor.org] from a famous locality in Germany called Messel [wikipedia.org] . Here's a picture [uni-bonn.de] , and here's a news article [nationalgeographic.com] . As seen in quite a few modern beetles, the colour isn't caused by pigment but by irridescence (i.e. light interference) due to the microscopic structure of the insect's wing covers. It's analogous in some ways to the rainbow of colours you see on the bottom of a CD due to the pits on the surface. In animals this is sometimes called "structural colour". The preservation at Messel is so good that this fine detail was preserved, and the beetle therefore still has it's colour visible!

Color in fossils, you say? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24461131)

Any word on whether Jesus was black or not?

Re:Color in fossils, you say? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24462131)

my buddy once had a vison and wrote a poem without knowing he did so, but it was titles 'jesus was a man loving black man' he died a couple of years later due to a brain tumor, and, i guess, lots of lsd-25.

According to established Dogma (1)

Nazlfrag (1035012) | more than 6 years ago | (#24463005)

Of course he was, but unlike Rufus he was left in the Bible.

Re:Color in fossils, you say? (1)

WiFiBro (784621) | more than 6 years ago | (#24464381)

Any word on whether Jesus was black or not?

An official request to obtain His fossil remains for color sampling has been made to His last known whereabouts but diplomat H. Peter claims He is still alive.

Scientists, amazed at the age of Jesus, insisted to be given sample cell material for research on teleomeric decay, but H.Peter advised them to "have Faith".

All things being equal... (1)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | more than 6 years ago | (#24461799)

they will all turn out to be a shade of brown...

RS

How reliable is this discover? (4, Interesting)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | more than 6 years ago | (#24462265)

A couple of days ago, I found myself looking up birds on Wikipedia (don't ask why, my attention wanders) and found an interesting note on blue jays [wikipedia.org] .

As with other blue-hued birds, the Blue Jay's coloration is not derived by pigments, but is the result of light refraction due to the internal structure of the feathers; if a blue feather is crushed, the blue disappears as the structure is destroyed. This is referred to as structural coloration.

I'm not a bird watcher, so I don't know if this is just an anomaly specific to blue birds.

Re:How reliable is this discover? (1)

Tastecicles (1153671) | more than 6 years ago | (#24463089)

iridescence works in a similar way. I've got a shirt that's crimson or blue or blue/green depending on the angle you're at. Some species of butterfly have iridescent wings. Duck feathers sometimes iridesce (particularly neck feathers on mallards and pintails).

Re:How reliable is this discover? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24463113)

I also know that butterflies do this, as well.

Re:How reliable is this discover? (3, Funny)

DanAnderson26 (54603) | more than 6 years ago | (#24463345)

That explains why blue jays turn black when I crush them!

Thanks - Now on to crushing cardinals!

Re:How reliable is this discover? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24466845)

No, it isn't unique to blue or to birds. It's really common in plenty of other birds and in many other creatures. It is caused by light interference as the light is reflected from a microscopically-striated or dimpled surface. The effect occurs when the structures on the surface are close in scale to the wavelength of light. Tune the size of the structures appropriately, and you can get interference to produce a particular colour. The brilliant plumage of a peacock is caused by the same effect.

An easy place to see the effect is on the bottom of a CD -- interference caused by the lines of pits within the plastic are what is producing the rainbow of colours.

Re:How reliable is this discover? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24470569)

How reliable is this discover?

Yes, blue jays have structural colors. The article mentions this

And some animals create iridescent patterns by nanoscale structures of melanin, which might also be preserved in fossils.

So why do you think the discovery is unreliable?

mod 0p (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24462913)

recruitment, but Satan's dick And Inv3nting excuses

Color and Evolution (1)

reallyjoel (1262642) | more than 6 years ago | (#24464113)

I was just thinking when I read this, at sometime in the evolutionary history of the earth, color probably didn't matter at all. The organisms were probably just "randomly" colored, that is, evolution didn't favor any specific color. Then eventually, species developed optic sensors, and then began to put meaning to the color, slowly weeding out individuals that displayed a color associated with negative features. So the it wouldn't be surpricing if the actual colors of the first organisms are kind of off-putting to the creatures of today. Or, they were just shades of grey....

Re:Color and Evolution (1)

thedistrict (1327685) | more than 6 years ago | (#24465673)

After millions of years of evolution though..many animals today still maintain a color. Colors have their reasons in the wild. However, many speculate that dinosaurs and animals in that era were artificially weeded out through some catastrophe. Regardless, I think it will be cool to see how these things were colored if they can be accurately rebuilt.

WTF (1)

OshMan (1246516) | more than 6 years ago | (#24465637)

Man imagine if Darwin hadn't been inspired by looking at bugs as a youth. Imagine if he hadn't paused to wonder at the variety of finches in the Galapagos because those details didn't solve any "bigger" problems. This is an amazing discovery. Who knows where the knowledge gained here might lead. If nothing else, its a link in the chain of our understanding of the past. And that alone is valuable.

Jaw Bone Found (1)

imscarr (246204) | more than 6 years ago | (#24469405)

Researchers also found a 100 million year old woman's jawbone.

How did they know it was a woman's?????? ... It was still moving

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