Pterosaurs had branched and colorful feathers like modern birds

Pterosaurs had branched and colorful feathers like modern birds

Complex feathers like those of modern birds have been identified in the fossil of a pterosaur discovered in Brazil. They were colourful.

Photo credit: Bob Nicholls 2022

Photo credit: Bob Nicholls 2022

That pterosaursold flying reptiles lived in the time of dinosaurthey had branched feathers with a structure similar to that of the moderns birds. plus hers plumage epoch light colored, just as occurs in many birds today. From a paleontological perspective, these are quite significant discoveries considering that scientists have debated the possibility that these could be for many years Animals actually had complex feathers.

The mystery was solved thanks to the discovery of a fossil particularly well preserved, called that of a pterodactyl Tupandactyl Emperor, recently discovered in northeastern Brazil. This flying reptile found 113 million years ago at the heart of the MesozoicShe had a peculiar appearance due to a huge crest on her head. Just below, scientists spotted feathers; some were called similarly thin threads (like bristly hairs). picnofiberothers instead presented a complex and branched structure, with rachis and beards analogous to those of modern springs.

Credit: Giulio Lacerda

Credit: Giulio Lacerda

Describing the feathers of the Brazilian pterosaur was an international research team led by scientists from the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences in Brussels, Belgium, working closely with colleagues from the Evolution and Optics of Nanostructures group at Ghent University MaurĂ­cio de Nassau University Center ( Brazil), the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences at University College of Cork (Ireland), the Geological Survey of Brazil and other research centers. The scientists, coordinated by Professor Aude Cincotta, professor at the University of Namur and member of the Belgian institute, discovered the structure of feathers and the presence of organelles for pigments after analyzing the fossil by powerful high-resolution electron microscopes.

Initial vaccinations of Moderna’s HIV mRNA vaccine funded by Bill Gates

“We didn’t expect to see her at all,” said Dr. Cincotta in a press release, referring to the structure of the feathers. “For decades, paleontologists have debated whether pterosaurs have feathers. The feathers of our specimen definitively close this debate, as they are very clearly branched throughout their length, just like today’s birds,” the expert commented. According to the study’s authors, feathers evolved into a common ancestor of birds and pterosaurs, although it’s not ruled out that they could have evolved independently.

Photo credit: Bob Nicholls 2022

Photo credit: Bob Nicholls 2022

Even the detail of melanosomes (organelles produced by melanocytes and responsible for the synthesis of melanin, which provides the color) surprised the researchers as they presented different shapes. Because shape corresponds to a specific color, these pterosaurs were as colorful as some of the modern birds. Colorful plumage may have been used in mating rituals and played a role in sexual selection and interspecific communication, just like today’s bird fauna, experts say. The details of the research, ‘Pterosaur melanosomes support early feather signalling’, have been published in the authoritative journal Nature.