Barney’s true color forever a mystery

Last week we brought you the news that scientists have now found a way to deduce which colors dinosaurs may have been by analyzing the structure of melanosomes. Those are cell bodies which carry melanin, which determines color, and in the case of the Sinosauropteryx had survived in fossils.

Unfortunately there’s some bad news to add to that report. It turns out that the melanosomes had survived because they were inside the tough protein of feathers. The melanosomes which could thus theoretically have survived in other feathered dinosaurs would indicate black, brown, orange or gray colorings.

However, because the relevant pigments come from a different source, it appears unlikely we’ll ever be able to tell which feathered dinosaurs were red, green, yellow or, most disappointingly for multi-national entertainment corporation marketing, purple. It’s also unlikely it will be possible to be sure about the colors of scaly, non-feathered dinosaurs.

That doesn’t mark an end to the work by the researchers, however. They now plan to analyze the entire Sinosauropteryx to attempt to map the coloring across its entire body. That might lend a better insight into whether the colored feathering was designed as a form of camouflage or to make it distinctive enough to attract a mate.

By the way, for those who didn’t notice, a GeeksAreSexy reader kindly shared the lyrics of a song by musician Billy Crockett which deals with a school pupil who disagrees with his teacher about exactly what color a dinosaur should be. In hindsight, the teacher’s arguments no longer appear so convincing!

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