Scientists have found evidence of some of the original coloration of a dinosaur that lived about 125 million years ago, showing that it had rings of orange-brown bristly feathers around its tail.
Fossils have revealed a lot about the lives of dinosaurs, but researchers always used to think that the fossil record couldn’t show what color they were. “This was the one point at which we had to give up,” says paleontologist Mike Benton at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom, who explains that fossils tend to preserve an animal’s hard parts, like bones and teeth, and not soft parts like skin.
But feathers are made of tough proteins. “And, in fact, they can survive even in conditions where other internal organs, you know, muscles and guts and brains and so on, will disappear,” says Benton.