These pictures of monochrome pterosaurs are apparently outdated – because the animals probably looked this or similarly colorful. This is indicated by new research on a well-preserved pterosaur fossil from Brazil.
In a new study in the journal Nature, paleogeologists and biologists describe what their analysis of the Tupandactylus fossil revealed. The tissue of the animal is clearly visible in it. The researchers found a high level of diversity in the melanosomes, which are oragnelles that are responsible for transporting melanin in the tissue. Melanin is the pigment of cells. The pigments cause hair, fur or feathers to appear colored.
The different melanosome structures of the Tupandactylus resemble those of birds or mammals, the researchers explain.
“This supports the thesis that the branched integmuntary structures (ie the limbs, skin and attached structures, editor’s note) in pterosaurs are feathers,” the researchers report in the study.
They further concede that it could also be an as yet unknown type of skin covering. But this would also show a coloring similar to that of feathers.
Findings of dinosaurs with feathers also show that feathers go back a long way in evolution. The discovery of an Archeopteryx fossil in 1861 showed that dinosaurs also had feathers. Since then, several fossil dinosaurs with feathers have been found. Our idea of scaly dinosaurs was thus outdated. However, researchers are still unsure how many dinosaur species had scales and how many had feathers.
So far, other studies of early pterosaur fossils have tended to suggest that the pterosaurs were monochromatic. The new discovery could once again reverse our view of the primordial animals.