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The True Color of Ancient Sea Creatures

samzenpus posted about 8 months ago | from the cool-colors dept.

Earth 44

sciencehabit writes "Looking a bit like a dolphin, but with a long slim snout filled with pointy teeth, one species of ichthyosaur was practically invisible in the murky depths of Jurassic seas, thanks to dark pigmentation that covered its entire body. That's one conclusion of a new study that provides an unprecedented peek at the coloration of sea creatures alive during or soon after the dinosaur era. The approach involves bombarding fossils with charged particles and then analyzing the particles that are knocked from the surface, which reveals remnants of ancient pigments. Dark pigmentation may have helped ichthyosaurs and other predators camouflage themselves in the murky depths while they hunted prey."

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Who needs color? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45905787)

We do! We do!

Dogs don't!

Spoiler (1)

hodwik (3459527) | about 8 months ago | (#45905831)

Spoiler: It's gray.

Re:Spoiler (4, Funny)

Thanshin (1188877) | about 8 months ago | (#45905927)

"Spoiler: It's gray." - Dr. C.Nohues, President of the National Colorblindness Association.

Re:Spoiler (1)

Russ1642 (1087959) | about 8 months ago | (#45908127)

You have no idea what colourblindness is.

Re:Spoiler (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45912613)

You have no idea what monochromacy is.

Re:Spoiler (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45905935)

Still pretty amazing that they had 24-bit color depth back then. [wikipedia.org] I can hardly get that at all these days [youtube.com]

Re:Spoiler (1)

Sique (173459) | about 8 months ago | (#45906443)

That's the quality reserve which lets you recognize professional project management. At least they were able to deliver within six days. Ok, the whole creation was somewhat buggy, and a complete system restart was necessary after the most important data was backed up in the Ark.

Re:Spoiler (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45906861)

That's not what I read this morning (saw it on Google News: they were black)

Re:Spoiler (1)

Pseudonym (62607) | about 8 months ago | (#45937015)

"We kept it gray." -- Number 1.0

Article summary (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45905835)

Ancient sea creatures had dark blue or black color

Re:Article summary (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | about 8 months ago | (#45905925)

Which seems to be what a good majority of today's sea creatures have that fill analogous environmental niches. Although it would be kind of funny to see Megalodon or Mosasaurus decked out in rainbow stripes like a gay pride flag.

Re:Article summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45915881)

Back in Dinosaur days there was an Oxygen content of 24% instead of 20% we have today and the Oceans were red owing to different conditions so I would go with black rather than blue as their color.

Would have been more interesting,.. (1)

Selur (2745445) | about 8 months ago | (#45905873)

if they found that the sea creatures were all neon-pink or neon-yellow and there was no explanation for it,.. ;)

Re:Would have been more interesting,.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45905893)

It would have been proof that God is gay :D

Evangelist headsplosion in 3...

Re:Would have been more interesting,.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45905973)

if they found that the sea creatures were all neon-pink or neon-yellow and there was no explanation for it,.. ;)

Mimicking poinsonous creatures, trying to blend in with coral, a sea bottom that's yellow because of Sulfur compounds, and the #1 reason of all of history - to attract mates.

Many creatures today have coloring that makes no sense from a survival point of view but make perfect sense for getting laid.

Re:Would have been more interesting,.. (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 8 months ago | (#45906067)

Many creatures today have coloring that makes no sense from a survival point of view but make perfect sense for getting laid

...therefore making (somewhat circular) sense from a survival point of view.

Re:Would have been more interesting,.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45907855)

You plan to reproduce and spread your biological diversity might be camouflage, mine might be the biological equivalent of wearing a pimp suit. Potato, Potato.

Just wow. (1)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 8 months ago | (#45905879)

Dark skin pigment is favored in natural selection where it offers a camouflaged appearance in dark seas.

Scientists everywhere are astonished.

This will likely be evidence enough to countermand deeply convicted religious objectors to evolution.

Re:Just wow. (1)

Henriok (6762) | about 8 months ago | (#45905931)

This will likely be evidence enough to countermand deeply convicted religious objectors to evolution.

Hardly. God just created a suitable skin color for these sinner sea animals before he killed them all in the great flood.

Re:Just wow. (3, Funny)

Jason Levine (196982) | about 8 months ago | (#45906037)

I'm sure a Creationist would have an answer for this, but how exactly does a flood kill sea animals? More specifically, how does it kill some sea animals but not others? Or did Noah also load up his ark with giant fishbowls full of every sea animal as well so that the horrible sea-animal killing flood didn't kill off the dolphins? I can see it now. Noah enters the Whale Room and climbs a very big ladder to be able to sprinkle dried plankton flakes into the whale tank. (Diorama of this scene coming soon to a Creationist museum near you!)

Re:Just wow. (3, Informative)

SJHillman (1966756) | about 8 months ago | (#45906071)

If you flood the oceans with enough rain that salinity rapidly changes, it will kill the entire ecosystem pretty quickly - just ask anyone who saw Finding Nemo and tried keeping a clownfish in a freshwater tank. Floods also tend to kick up sediments, throw chemicals in the water and lots of other fun stuff that will end up killing many creatures - including vital parts of the food chain.

As for killing some animals but not others, it's a long shot but possible depending on the adaptability of the creatures. If they can find a new food source and the changes in salinity/chemicals/sediments/etc don't kill them, then they'll probably thrive. Although the dried plankton flakes theory isn't too bad either.

Re:Just wow. (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about 8 months ago | (#45908197)

First off, to quote the esteemed Mr. Leghorn, "it's a joke, son." To quote your blow drier, "woosh".

The entire concept is strawman-like. The Bible says that it was mankind that neded to perish, because fallen angels mated with human women and the offspring needed to be destroyed (Genesis chapter six) [mcgrewbooks.com] . Note this quote: "And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them." So it seems he was OK with sea creatures.

I've wondered for a long time just how old Genesis is? Not the written Hebrew but the stories that were passed from generation to generation before writing was invented? I wonder of these "giants" mentioned that were the offspring of "fallen angels" were some now-extinct species of human fifty or more thousand years ago? I've read in various places that during the period that Neanderthals became extinct, homo sapiens almost did, too, with only a few thousand human survivors. Could this be the genesis of Genesis?

Re:Just wow. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45909133)

"And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them."

So this is basically God saying "oops, I made a mistake"?

Nuking. From orbit. Or call Rentokil (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 8 months ago | (#45911671)

So it seems he was OK with sea creatures.

Just papering over the cracks, really. Turn your back for an eon or two and the buggers grow legs and go stomping all over the dry bits like they own the sodding place and you're back where you started from.

Re: Just wow. (1)

O('_')O_Bush (1162487) | about 8 months ago | (#45905991)

If they can deny radiocarbon dating by "debunking" carbon dating of fossils hundreds of millions of years old (jfyi, carbon dating is only used up to 60k years ago, so their argument is irrelevant), then I am quite certain they will find a way to wave away the instruments used or godditit the color patterns.

To the rest of Christianity, it is quite obvious (and has been for decades), that God is an evolutionist.

Re:Just wow. (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about 8 months ago | (#45906001)

Dark skin pigment is favored in natural selection where it offers a camouflaged appearance in dark seas.

Scientists everywhere are astonished.

Astonishing? Perhaps not.
It's one thing to make an educated guess, it's quite another to test the hunch, and an animal of a different color to gather evidence.

Re:Just wow. (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 8 months ago | (#45911679)

and an animal of a different color to gather evidence

I see what you did there. Or rather I would if it wasn't the same colour as the background.

Re:Just wow. (3, Insightful)

Sockatume (732728) | about 8 months ago | (#45906821)

When scientists test obvious assumptions, you get people whining about how we should've known that anyway. When scientists don't test obvious assumptions, you get people whining about how we can't possibly know for sure.

You know what? If you're so good at figuring out what scientists should do, you do it, and I'll go use my advanced degree to play the markets.

It's all I can do not to stab someone in the eye with a pen when I see them reading those stories in front of me on the bus most mornings.

Re:Just wow. (1)

SunTzuWarmaster (930093) | about 8 months ago | (#45907127)

Consider this situation:
Kid: What color was the ichthyosaur?
Parent: "We don't know, but it was probably dark-colored because it lived deep in the ocean. However, it may have been brightly colored to attract a mate, may have glowed in the dark to attract prey, or may have had tiger-like patterning to hide in native vegetation. We may never know."
...
Scientist: "We have found out! It was dark grey. You should cheer because we have answered a fundamental question about the ichthyosaur. We can use this method to discover what color the other dinosaurs were, if you would want to know."

Re:Just wow. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45908469)

We can still tell the kid anything the parent said, because we have examples of it in nature now.

Knowing that an elephant is a drab dirty color doesn't diminish explaining peacocks and zebras.

True color? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45905969)

I assumed all ancient sea creatures were 8-bit.

Re:True color? (2)

SJHillman (1966756) | about 8 months ago | (#45906105)

Cuttlefish are fairly ancient, but their color-changing skin boasts a higher resolution than Apple's Retina displays. And while I couldn't find a good number for how many colors than they handle, it's assuredly far, far higher than 8 bit. However, there are rumors of cuttlefish comparable to Windows phones that only display blue with white symbols...

our true colors hidden by spiritual bankruptcy (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45906005)

give away more than we keep lighten our load be kind to our billions of genuine spiritual & physical allys should keep us occupied?

Fossil Color (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45906209)

So they can detect the color of the skin by scanning bone fossils? How can they know that they aren't deriving the color of the bone, rather than the color of the quick decaying skin?

Is this another WAG being passed off as fact?

Re:Fossil Color (2)

The Real Dr John (716876) | about 8 months ago | (#45907689)

If you read the article, they aren't scanning the bones. They used mass spectroscopy to scan pigment traces in the rocks surrounding the outlines of the soft tissues, so they are actually looking at the chemical remnants of pigments in the rock. They were able to detect eumelanin, which is a dark pigment found in skin and hair. They did not see any eumelanin traces in other parts of the fossil-bearing rocks except right around the fossils.

Calibration? (1)

Hatta (162192) | about 8 months ago | (#45906319)

In order to know what color corresponds to what reading from their instrument, they'd have to take objects of known color, fossilize them, and then scan them. Obviously they haven't done this, so how do they know?

Re:Calibration? (2)

Sockatume (732728) | about 8 months ago | (#45906935)

They don't figure it out by blind comparison but analytically. The instrument in question gives you information on the chemical composition of the pigment, which in this case indicates it's a melanin derivative. Melanin derivatives are dark brown or black in colour. This tallies with the fact that the colour organelles are the same shape as modern melanin-containing ones as opposed to carotenoid-containing ones, and the types of organelles are so evolutionarily ancient that they've probably been that shape since long before these organisms existed.

Re:Calibration? (1)

cusco (717999) | about 8 months ago | (#45907797)

Pigments break down in predictable ways. They probably aren't actually detecting melanin, but the breakdown products of melanin.

Why (1)

P-niiice (1703362) | about 8 months ago | (#45906355)

Why didn't god make them rainbow colored?

Re:Why (1)

cusco (717999) | about 8 months ago | (#45907809)

She was saving that for the unicorn farts.

Next on Fox News (0)

tie_guy_matt (176397) | about 8 months ago | (#45906507)

Fox news now reports that because the ancient fish have such dark pigmentation, the fish are clearly from Kenya and are therefore not fit to be President of the US.

In a few million years ... (3, Funny)

PPH (736903) | about 8 months ago | (#45907557)

... fish will evolve to look like Budweiser cans.

What other color? (1)

Dread_ed (260158) | about 8 months ago | (#45910177)

Dark coloring makes perfect sense. Think about it. If you created a prehistoric sea beast that was half shark/half alligator I bet you would paint them black too. It just looks more awesomer! Now, if they could only find a test to see if any of them had frickin lazer beams strapped to their heads...

Ob (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45911535)

Jesus could see them, 'cause he's magic.

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