Last week, researchers announced that they had been able to place, for the first time, original colors on a dinosaur—painting in striking stripes on Sinosauropteryx's tail based on new evidence of pigment particles. Today, another team reports that they have decoded the colors of a different dino from head to tail.
The findings, which will be published February 5 in Science, paint a detailed picture of birdlike Anchiornis huxleyi, which has been extinct for some 150 million years and was first described in December 2008.
To establish this dinosaur's overall coloration, the researchers, led by Quanguo Li of the Beijing Museum of Natural History, studied 29 feather samples under a scanning electron microscope. And what they found was quite a dramatic little dinosaur.
"This was no crow or sparrow, but a creature with a very notable plumage," Richard Prum, a professor of ornithology, ecology and evolutionary biology at Yale University, said in a prepared statement. Nevertheless, the coloring isn't fully unfamiliar. Quite to the contrary, as the authors noted in the study, it is "strikingly similar to various living birds including domesticated fowl." …