Pigment scans reveal fossil birds' dark sides

Thursday - June 30, 2011

Major new clues to the appearance of fossilised birds have emerged from X-ray scans, which reveal which parts of their plumage contained the black pigment eumelanin. The same technique could theoretically be applied to fossils of any animal, providing new insights into their appearance.

The scans show that the earliest-known beaked bird – the roughly 120-million-year-old Confuciusornis sanctus – had extremely dark plumage on the neck, breast and body.