Much is known about these winged dinosaurs. But unexpected surprises are still emerging. For example, the amazing ability of pterosaurs: to change the color of their feathers. An international team of scientists has discovered it. These ancient flying relatives of the dinosaurs, the pterosaurs, had feathers. Not only that. It turns out they were able to control their color.
A 115-million-year-old fossilized skull was analyzed from the pterosaur Tupandactylus imperator from northeastern Brazil. Who did it? A scientific team from Brazil, Ireland and Belgium. This species is known for its huge crest. However, analysis with high-powered microscopes detected that the pterosaur’s skull had feathered edges.
For years, scientists debated the presence of feathers in this species. Finally, the study published at Nature succeeded in demonstrating this hypothesis. Not only that. He also detailed the amazing ability of pterosaurs. They could control the color of their feathers with melanin pigments.
The researchers identified different types of melanosomes preserved in the specimens. These are melanin pigment granules. What does this prove? That dinosaurs had their own genetic mechanism to control the color of their feathers.
At the moment, there is one theory for the purpose of this ability. It is believed that pterosaurs would have used this characteristic to camouflage themselves from their rivals or to show off to their friends. It is similar to what chameleons do.
In this way, the researchers also demonstrated the importance of color patterning in feathered animals and that coloration was an important feature even for the earliest feathered animals.
Pterosaurs inhabited the Earth some 230 and 66 million years ago, coexisted with dinosaurs, which is why they are associated as their closest relatives and one of the first vertebrates to achieve powered flight.