True Colors: Fuzz, Feathers and Sinosauropteryx


Sinosauropteryx was the first of the “feathered dinosaurs” to wow the world. The true nature of these “feathers” has been debated since the ‘90s. The latest iteration of this discussion involves the tiny structures that impart color to bird feathers.

I would only add to this discussion the thought that the most equivocal evidence presented by Zhang, et al, concerns the only clear dinosaur, Sinosauropteryx. Sinornithosaurus, on the other hand, looks an awful lot like Microraptor – a four-winged bird, damn it.

I’m still not convinced that there is such a thing as a feathered dinosaur.

A new Chinese specimen indicates that “protofeathers” in the Early Cretaceous theropod dinosaur Sinosauropteryx are degraded collagen fibres

Theagarten Lingham-Soliar, Alan Feduccia and Xiaolin Wang

Proceedings of the Royal Society B (2007) 274, 1823-1829

Fossilized melanosomes and the colour of Cretaceous dinosaurs and birds

Zhang F, Kearns SL, Orr PJ, Benton MJ, Zhou Z, Johnson D, Xu X, Wang X

Nature (2010) 463:1075-1078

The evolution of the feather:  Sinosauropteryx, a colourful tail

Theagarten Lingham-Soliar

J Ornithol (2010)

The next round, I suspect, will deal with trace metals found in feather pigments:


Trace Metals as Biomarkers for Eumelanin Pigment in the Fossil Record

R.A. Wogelius, P.L. Manning, H.E. Barden, N.P. Edwards, S.M. Webb, W.I. Sellers, K.G. Taylor, P.L. Larson, P. Dodson, H. You, L. Da-quing, U Bergmann

Sciencexpress, (30 June 2011)