Feeds

MICRORAPTOR dino-pigeon lured mates with glowing feathers

Ooh, hey pretty bir- AAAARRRRGGGH

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

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. ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
Cutting cancer rates: Data, models and a happy ending?
How surgery might be making cancer prognoses worse
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
Brit balloon bod Bodnar overflies North Pole
B-64 amateur ultralight payload approaching second circumnavigation
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Scale data protection with your virtual environment
To scale at the rate of virtualization growth, data protection solutions need to adopt new capabilities and simplify current features.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?