Skip to main page content
Access keys NCBI Homepage MyNCBI Homepage Main Content Main Navigation
, 3, 637

New Evidence on the Colour and Nature of the Isolated Archaeopteryx Feather

Affiliations

New Evidence on the Colour and Nature of the Isolated Archaeopteryx Feather

Ryan M Carney et al. Nat Commun.

Abstract

Archaeopteryx has been regarded as an icon of evolution ever since its discovery from the Late Jurassic limestone deposits of Solnhofen, Germany in 1861. Here we report the first evidence of colour from Archaeopteryx based on fossilized colour-imparting melanosomes discovered in this isolated feather specimen. Using a phylogenetically diverse database of extant bird feathers, statistical analysis of melanosome morphology predicts that the original colour of this Archaeopteryx feather was black, with 95% probability. Furthermore, reexamination of the feather's morphology leads us to interpret it as an upper major primary covert, contrary to previous interpretations. Additional findings reveal that the specimen is preserved as an organosulphur residue, and that barbule microstructure identical to that of modern bird feathers had evolved as early as the Jurassic. As in extant birds, the extensive melanization would have provided structural advantages to the Archaeopteryx wing feather during this early evolutionary stage of dinosaur flight.

Similar articles

See all similar articles

Cited by 22 articles

See all "Cited by" articles

References

    1. Science. 2011 Sep 16;333(6049):1622-6 - PubMed
    1. Biol Lett. 2010 Feb 23;6(1):128-31 - PubMed
    1. Science. 2010 Nov 12;330(6006):954-7 - PubMed
    1. Nature. 2010 Feb 25;463(7284):1075-8 - PubMed
    1. Nature. 1963 Mar 16;197:1082-4 - PubMed

Publication types

LinkOut - more resources

Feedback