JULY 1 2011 20:25h
X-rays reveal color of ancient creatures
Researchers at Stanford University detected a pigment that creates patterns of black and brown colors in two fossilized birds from China, a finding that could lead to discovering the long-vanished chemistry and colors of all extinct animals, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Friday.
The X-ray technique that can detect ancient melanin, the substance that gives skin and hair its color, could ultimately reveal the coloration of the bodies of dinosaurs and birds, researchers say.
Researchers used Stanford's Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource microscope to identify a variety of chemical elements in the feathers of a fossil bird named Confuciusornis sanctus that lived about 120 million years ago.
The work proved the powerful instrument could reveal much of the chemistry in any fossil's soft tissues without destroying the sample, they said.
The true color of ancient organisms has been a "missing ingredient" for paleontologists until now, researchers said.
PALO ALTO, Calif., July 1 (UPI) -- U.S. scientists using an X-ray microscope say they've determined the unique pattern of a coloring pigment called melanin in the feathers of the fossil birds.