4th Dec 2012

Prehistoric Colours

We typically think of the fossil record as a black and white view into the prehistoric world, but some fossils show that dinosaurs, fish, early insects and even ancient plants were very colourful creatures indeed. A team led by Yale University paleogeologist Maria McNamara have analysed spectacularly coloured fossils of beetles that lived 15–47 million years ago—and these fossils have preserved not only shape and structure, but also the colours of the beetles’ exoskeletons. Many other fossils use pigment traces to generate colour, which bounces light off a chemical, but the beetles’ colours are far richer because they are generated through a phenomenon called structural colouration, in which light bounces off nanometre-scale surface geometries. By analysing the fossils under an electron microscope, McNamara and her team found that the colours had shifted slightly during the fossilisation process—specifically, they had been redshifted , so a blue beetle would have become slightly greener, and a yellow one would have become slightly oranger. After correcting for this shift, the team can envision the beetles’ flashy metallic exoskeletons just as they looked when they were alive. These colours also give clues about how the beetle lived, allowing the researchers to determined whether they served visual functions like thermo-regulation or communication.

(Image Credit: Wired)

This post has 336 notes
  1. taylorrosemary reblogged this from valirium
  2. landlocked-selkie reblogged this from sciencesoup
  3. multipletrees reblogged this from ushishir
  4. karethdreams reblogged this from somuchscience
  5. satyreetbacchante reblogged this from molecularlifesciences
  6. molecularlifesciences reblogged this from lifeisjustatheory
  7. ezbugz reblogged this from thebuggeek
  8. thebuggeek reblogged this from somuchscience and added:
  9. ihrherzistunmoglich reblogged this from sciencesoup
  10. frailtythyname reblogged this from sagansense
  11. onmykanyebest reblogged this from sciencesoup
  12. edgarallancoe reblogged this from ushishir
  13. mothtoalight reblogged this from ushishir
  14. madnikkopen reblogged this from ushishir
  15. ushishir reblogged this from somuchscience
  16. mngwa reblogged this from somuchscience
  17. astro-stoner reblogged this from sagansense
  18. somuchscience reblogged this from sagansense
  19. the-nuclear-chaos reblogged this from sagansense
  20. retromantique reblogged this from sagansense and added:
    Awww prehistoric beetles!
  21. mesheme reblogged this from fudgesmonkey
  22. will123adc reblogged this from fudgesmonkey
  23. olduvaigorge reblogged this from sagansense
  24. curiositycreature reblogged this from sagansense