Researchers in the U.S. and China have found the earliest-known evolutionary evidence of iridescent feathers through a new fossil study of a pigeon-sized, four-winged dinosaur called Microraptor.
The new fossil is the earliest record of iridescent feathers, offering fresh evidence that such feathers evolved to attract mates.
The research, which has been published in the recent edition of the journal Science, compares the patterns of pigment-containing organelles from a Microraptor fossil with those in modern birds.
The scientists found that the dinosaur's plumage had a glossy sheen similar to that of a crow.
Most aspects of early dinosaur feathering continue to be interpreted as fundamentally aerodynamic, optimized for some aspect of aerial locomotion. Some of these structures were clearly ancestral characteristics that arose for other functions and stuck around, while others may be linked to display behaviours or signalling of mate quality, said Julia Clarke, one of the paper's co-authors and an associate professor of paleontology at The University of Texas at Austin's Jackson School of Geosciences.
Feather features were surely shaped by early locomotor styles. But, as any birder will tell you, feather colors and shapes may also be tied with complex behavioral repertoires and, if anything, may be costly in terms of aerodynamics, she further mentioned.
In the report released by the researchers, information on the color of feathers in various dinosaurs has recently come to light, since the first color map of an extinct dinosaur showed black and white spangles, red coloration and gray body colour in a species called Anchiornis in 2010.
Based on the new data from Microraptor and these other finds, a complex color repertoire that includes iridescence is probably ancestral to a group of dinosaurs called Paraves that originated at least 140 million years ago and includes dinosaurs such as Velociraptor as well as Archaeopteryx, Anchiornis and living birds.
Take a look at the new findings that contain an artist's recreation of the Microraptor with a flashy plumage in the images given below: