Editor's Summary

25 February 2010

Ginger group dinosaurs


A series of striking 'feathered dinosaur' fossil discoveries from the Cretaceous Jehol Group sediments of China has revolutionized thinking about the evolution and diversity of dinosaurs and early birds. But it has been suggested that some of the structures that are not obviously feathers might actually be strands of collagen from under the skin. Zhang et al. refute this notion by demonstrating the presence in these structures of melanosomes — the characteristic bodies that give feathers their colours. Not only do they show that the feather-like structures of dinosaurs such as Sinosauropteryx really are akin to feathers, but also they can speculate in an informed way about their colour — which it seems was reddish brown or ginger.

LetterFossilized melanosomes and the colour of Cretaceous dinosaurs and birds

Fucheng Zhang, Stuart L. Kearns, Patrick J. Orr, Michael J. Benton, Zhonghe Zhou, Diane Johnson, Xing Xu & Xiaolin Wang

doi:10.1038/nature08740