Metals found in ancient fossil dinosaur fossils may be the key to what color their feathers were. In metals, scientists have discovered various forms of pigment – melanin, responsible for the coloring of birds and animals. About its presence in humans clearly show a certain color of the eyes, skin and hair.
In particular, one of the varieties of melanin – eumelanin “guarantees” a black or dark brown hue, and pheomelanin – a reddish or yellow color.
A group of scientists at the University of Manchester has set out to study how melanin interacts with various elements using X-rays. As an object of research, they used the feathers of some birds of prey (Harris hawk, red-tailed hawk, kestrels and owls) discarded as a result of seasonal molting.
In the course of research, scientists have documented how the presence of melanin affects the distribution of copper, calcium and zinc in feathers. Assessing the concentration of various elements, they were able to identify what kind of melanin in it participated.
So, for example, the interaction of sulfur and zinc compounds indicates the presence in feathers of pheomelanin, responsible for red color. Conversely, the absence of sulfur and zinc is a sure sign of a dark type of melanin.
Studies of British scientists have significantly expanded the fundamental understanding of the pigmentation of ancient animals . In turn, this opens the prospect of the possibility of reconstructing their color palette.