2009 Portland GSA Annual Meeting (18-21 October 2009)

Paper No. 11
Presentation Time: 10:45 AM


VINTHER, Jakob, Department of Geology and Geophysics, Yale University, PO Box 208109, New Haven, CT 06520, BRIGGS, Derek, Dept. of Geology and Geophysics & Peabody Museum of Natural History, Yale University, 210 Whitney Avenue, P.O. Box 208109, New Haven, CT 06520, CLARKE, Julia, UT Austin, Austin, TX 78712, MAYR, Gerald, Ornithology, Senckenberg, Frankfurt, 60325, Germany and PRUM, Richard, O., Dept Of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520, jakob.vinther@yale.edu

Recent studies have shown that fossil feathers are often preserved as imprints made of melanosomes that imparted pigmentation to the feather. This opens up the possibility that it would be possible to interpret color patterns and original colors in fossil birds and dinosaurs.

Investigation of a series of fossil feathers from the famous Eocene Messel oil shale showed that some preserves dense external sheets of melanosomes in the barbules of the distal vane. The melanosomes formed a layer of randomly oriented melanosomes which is several melanosomes in thickness. This organization is identical to the type seen in modern iridescent black feathers of birds, such as grackles and swifts, which are usually metallic blue, green or oily coppery in appearance.

This discovery confirms our predictions about the potential for studies of fossil feathers and their colors.