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The decades-long debate finally seems to be over: pterosaurs, called pterosaurs, wore feathers. An international research team led by paleontologist Maria McNamara from University College Cork has now published its results in the specialist magazine “Nature”.
The feathers from the fossilized skull of the pterodactyl Tupandactylus imperator ensure clarity in the contentious discussion. “The feathers of our specimen finally end this debate,” McNamara is quoted as saying in a press release.
Types of feathers in different colors
In addition to two types of feathers, hair-like and fluffy, the researchers even discovered different shapes and sizes of so-called “melanosomes” within the different feathers.
Melanin and melanosomes
Melanin is a group of natural pigments found in most living organisms.
In animal cells, specific organelles are used for the production, storage and transport of melanin, so-called melanosomes.
They can be detected in fossilized fossils using electron microscopy and can be distinguished thanks to their clearly unequal sizes and shapes.
These are accumulations of melanin pigments in animal cells. This means that the pterosaurs already had the genetic tools to control the colors of their feathers. “This property is crucial for color patterning,” says McNamara. And: It can still be found in today’s birds.
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