- News Home
17 April 2014 12:48 pm ,
Vol. 344 ,
Officials last week revealed that the U.S. contribution to ITER could cost $3.9 billion by 2034—roughly four times the...
An experimental hepatitis B drug that looked safe in animal trials tragically killed five of 15 patients in 1993. Now,...
Using the two high-quality genomes that exist for Neandertals and Denisovans, researchers find clues to gene activity...
A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that humanity has done little to slow...
Astronomers have discovered an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a red dwarf—a star cooler than the sun—500...
Three years ago, Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University proposed that a warming Arctic was altering the behavior of the...
- 17 April 2014 12:48 pm , Vol. 344 , #6181
- About Us
ScienceShot: Flashy Feathers
8 March 2012 2:00 pm
The pigeon-sized dinosaur Microraptor, which lived about 120 million years ago, probably sported glossy black plumage like today's crows, a new analysis suggests. Detailed analyses of a fossil (inset) unearthed in northeastern China reveal that the creature's feathers would have been densely packed with pigment-bearing structures called melanosomes. The long, narrow shape of those melanosomes, as well as their arrangement in sheetlike arrays, indicates that the feathers would have been black and weakly iridescent, the researchers report in the 9 March issue of Science. Although other pigments could have been present in Microraptor's feathers, they would have been largely masked by black pigments, rendering the creature crowlike in appearance (main image) except for that long, bony tail and lengthy feathers on its legs. Previous studies of other Microraptor fossils, citing the presence of a large, bony ring within the creature's eye, suggested that the species was nocturnal. But the new study hints that the creature was active in the daytime, because no extant birds with glossy black plumage are active at night. Perhaps Microraptor was active during dawn and dusk, the researchers say—a lifestyle that would require large eyes yet also provide opportunity for daytime activity for which iridescent plumage could be used to identify fellow members of its species and signal to potential mates.
See more ScienceShots.