Have you ever wondered what colour the dinosaurs were? Probably not, but when you think about it – how could we know. Fossils are …. well, … fossil coloured. The movies portray most of the dinosaurs as greyish, probably because the biggest land mammal we know – the elephant – is grey. Dinosaurs are also sometimes portrayed to be similar in colour to many lizzards and reptiles that are alive today – and I suppose that makes some sense. But is there any way we can work out what colour the dinosaurs really were? Probably not ….
Until Jakob Vinther’s work that is. Jakob is currently working towards a PhD in paleontology at Yale University – http://www.jakobvinther.com/.
Part of Jakob’s interest is the preservation of malanin in fossils. He has discovered that melanin granules survive in their original shapes and patterns, which can be compared with existing feathers to determine their original color. One possible application of this work is that we may be able to make a very good guess at what colour many dinosaurs really were based on an analysis of their fossil remains.