Bird fossils reveal life's colourful chemistry

Thursday - June 30, 2011

A team, led by scientists from the University of Manchester, UK, scanned the beautifully preserved fossils. Their study, published in the journal Science, revealed the chemical fingerprint of pigments that once tinted the ancient bird's feathers. As well as the colour patterns of ancient creatures, pigments reveal fundamental clues about the chemical reactions that took place in their bodies, and the food the creatures ate that fuelled those reactions.

Dr Manning, his Manchester colleague Roy Wogelius and Uwe Bergmann from the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in California, led the international team. They used a powerful X-ray source called a synchrotron, which uncovered metals within the ancient fossilised feathers.