Feeds

MICRORAPTOR dino-pigeon lured mates with glowing feathers

Ooh, hey pretty bir- AAAARRRRGGGH

Remote control for virtualized desktops

It would have picked holes in your eyeballs if it got its little claws on your face, but it might have glowed prettily just before it did.

Scientists from Beijing and the US have discovered that the pigeon-sized Microraptor dinosaur would have had nice shiny feathers after painstakingly analysing a fossil found in Northern China.

The meat-eating dino-pigeon also sported a rakish tail plume, according to the report published today in the journal Science. Having no obvious practical function, researchers assume that the plumage and its glossiness would have helped microraptors recognise their own... and attract mates.

In modern birds, iridescence in feathers occurs when melanin-containing organelles are arranged in a certain way – packed in narrow stacks. When the researchers delved into the nano-structure of the fossilised feathers, they found the same narrow stacks of organelles and were able to estimate the shininess of the dino, which has been dead for 120 million years.

Microraptor, credit Jason Brougham/University of Texas; Mick Ellison (inset)

The discovery about the feathers has also led the scientists to another conclusion about Microraptor: it is likely that it flew the skies looking for soft meat around dawn and dusk, rather than night as previously thought.

The microraptor has surprisingly large eye sockets, suggesting it had big, light-sensitive eyes, which originally led scientists to believe it was active at night. However iridescence is only a quality that is useful to creatures active in the day, so the new feather finding suggests that microraptors most likely roamed in the twilight hours. In the semi-light their large eyes could have helped them see their prey, while their glowing feathers and long wavey tail feather would have lured the ladies... and gents.

Reconstruction of Microraptor and the Evolution of Iridescent Plumage was published in Science on 9 March. ®

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
MEN: For pity's sake SLEEP with LOTS of WOMEN - and avoid Prostate Cancer
And, um, don't sleep with other men. If that's what worries you
Voyager 1 now EIGHTEEN LIGHT HOURS from home
Almost 20 BEEELION kilometres from Sol
HUGE SHARK as big as a WWII SUBMARINE died out, allowing whales to exist
Who'd win a fight: Megalodon or a German battleship?
Jim Beam me up, Scotty! WHISKY from SPAAACE returns to Earth
They're insured for $1m, before you thirsty folks make plans
ROGUE SAIL BOAT blocks SPACE STATION PODULE blastoff
Er, we think our ISS launch beats your fishing expedition
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
BAE points electromagnetic projectile at US Army
Railguns for 'Future fighting vehicle'
LONG ARM of the SAUR: Brachially gifted dino bone conundrum solved
Deinocheirus mirificus was a bit of a knuckle dragger
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
New hybrid storage solutions
Tackling data challenges through emerging hybrid storage solutions that enable optimum database performance whilst managing costs and increasingly large data stores.
Business security measures using SSL
Examines the major types of threats to information security that businesses face today and the techniques for mitigating those threats.