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Colour mystery Predicting the colour of fuzzy dinosaurs like T-rex and Sinosauropteryx just got way more complicated, according to a new study.
The findings also suggest that those who gained feathers and fancy coat patterns, could also studenttechclasses #youtube #trendingtopics link for giveway Participation https://youtu.be/thLgu0YQXXU.have increased their metabolic rate to that seen in warm-blooded animals, says co-author Associate Professor Julia Clarke, a palaeontologist at the University of Texas.
Her research is published today in the journal Nature.
The most ubiquitous pigment that gives colours to hair, skin and feathers is melanin, which is packed into organelles called melanosomes and produces body coverings in hues of brown, reddish brown and grey black.
Previous research in living birds has shown that it is possible to predict the colourful patterns on their feather coats by looking at the diverse shapes of their melanosomes.
Clarke and colleagues were interested in exploring the evolution of melanosomes because they have also been used to infer the colour patterning of extinct dinosaurs.
The researchers sampled melanosomes from the body coverings of 181 living groups of animals and 13 fossil groups – including lizards, turtles, dinosaurs and pterosaurs.
They found that while birds, mammals and feathered dinosaurs had the diversity of melanosomes required to predict colour, lizards, turtles, pterosaurs and feather-less dinosaurs did not.
The melanosomes in these groups were very homogenous suggesting it would make it hard to infer their colour, says Clarke.
The fact that Clarke and colleagues found melanosome diversity occurred with the evolution of feathers in dinosaurs means some artists’ impressions of dinosaur colours may be wrong.
“It has implications for whether we can use melanosomes to figure out the colour of Tyrannosaurus and Sinosauropteryx, for example, because they’re fuzzy.”
Such dinosaurs only had feather precursors and lacked the necessary diversity of melanosomes to enable colour reconstruction, she says.
Clarke says melanosomes have been used to infer that Sinosauropteryx is reddish-brown but, she says this may be wrong.
“We think you probably couldn’t tell what colour that animal was,” says Clarke.
And even if a preserved body covering from Tyrannosaurus is discovered, scientists won’t be able to use melanosomes to predict its colour.
But colour prediction aside, the discovery of when melanosome diversity evolved could have much broader implications, says Clarke.
“What we’re seeing is this really clear signal for one particular part of the [evolutionary] tree associated with the origin of feathers preceding the origin of flight.”
She says genes involved in melanin-based colour also play a role in energetic processes in the body.
This suggests that the development of feathers in dinosaurs also accompanied a major physiological shift, says Clarke.
“It could mean that feathered dinosaurs had similar metabolic rates to mammals and birds.”
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Post Time:(2021-01-18 15:27:50)