Palaeontology

Fossil snake colours revealed

    Subjects

    Fresh evidence of coloration in ancient animals has been discovered in the 10-million-year-old fossilized remains of a snake.

    The colours of many extinct animals, including early birds, reptiles, mammals and amphibians, have been reconstructed through evidence of melanin pigments preserved in fossils. Maria McNamara at University College Cork, Ireland, and her colleagues now report evidence of coloration created by a different type of pigment called a carotenoid, preserved in minerals that replaced the tissues during fossilization.

    The team discovered pigment cells, called chromatophores, that would have contained carotenoids and light-reflecting granules in the skin of the fossilized snake, which was discovered near Teruel in Spain. The findings suggest that the animal had a pale belly and a green back and sides, with brown–black and yellow–green blotches — possibly a form of camouflage. The coloration could also have been a way to signal to other snakes.

    Curr. Biol. http://doi.org/bdxx (2016)

    Rights and permissions

    Reprints and Permissions

    About this article

    Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

    Cite this article

    Fossil snake colours revealed. Nature 532, 9 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1038/532009e

    Download citation

    Comments

    By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.