Melanosomes are  “micrometre-scale melanin-bearing organelles that have been used to infer original colours and patterns of the plumage of dinosaurs” and are often found in fossils.  Recent research by McNamara et al. (2013), shows that melanosomes do not retain their original function and appearance when subject to fossilisation.  How did they figure this out? By artificially fossilising fresh bird feathers of course! Clever, clever. Read all about it in Biology Letters

Microraptor reconstructions now in question. Credit Jason Brigham, reproduced from JSG Sciences


McNamara M.E., Briggs D.E.G., Orr P.J., Field D.J. & Wang Z. (2013). Experimental maturation of feathers: implications for reconstructions of fossil feather colour, Biology Letters, 9 (3) 20130184-20130184. DOI: