Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Hadrosaur hide

A team including University of Regina physicist Mauricio Barbi excavated a hadrosaur close to a river bed near Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada. The duck-billed dinosaur from the Late Cretaceous period (100-65 million years ago) was extraordinarily well-preserved. Barbi recounts, "As we excavated the fossil, I thought that we were looking at a skin impression. Then I noticed a piece came off and I realized this is not ordinary – this is real skin." While other impressions of dinosaur skin have been found (EXAMPLES HERE), this is only the 3rd 3-dimensional dinosaur skin specimen ever found worldwide. Among other studies, the team plans to analyze the skin using the Canadian Light Source (CLS) synchrotron to determine its color. They will be able to visualize cellular organelles that contain the pigments that define whether the hadrosaur was gray or green, as often depicted, or some other color entirely. Says Barbi, "If we are able to observe the melanosomes and their shape, it will be the first time pigments have been identified in the skin of a dinosaur. We have no real idea what the skin looks like. Is it green, blue, orange….There has been research that proved the color of some dinosaur feathers, but never skin."

NOTE: The deduction of the color of dinosaur feathers is not without some controversy.

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