The metals found in ancient dinosaur fossils may be the key to what color their feathers were. In metals, scientists have discovered various forms of pigment - melanin, which is responsible for the coloring of birds and animals. Its presence in humans is clearly indicated by a certain color of eyes, skin and hair.
In particular, one of the varieties of melanin - eumelanin "guarantees" a black or dark brown hue, and pheomelanin - a reddish or yellow color.
A group of scientists at the University of Manchester set out to study how melanin interacts with various elements using X-rays. They used the feathers of some birds of prey (Harris hawk, red-tailed hawk, kestrels and barn owls) discarded as a result of seasonal molting as an object of research.
In the course of research, scientists have recorded how the presence of melanin affects the distribution of copper, calcium and zinc in feathers. By assessing the concentration of various elements, they were able to identify which type of melanin was involved in this.
So, for example, the interaction of sulfur and zinc compounds indicates the presence of pheomelanin in feathers, which is responsible for the red color. Conversely, the absence of sulfur and zinc is a sure sign of a dark type of melanin.
Research by British scientists has greatly expanded the fundamental understanding of pigmentation in ancient animals. In turn, this opens up the prospect of the possibility of reconstructing their color palette.