Fossilized Melanosomes Found
Some scientists believe the supposed “proto-feathers” are really just collagen fibers

Fossilized Melanosomes Found


Paleontologists have recovered fossilized melanosomes (which are responsible for pigmentation in skin, fur, and feathers) from ancient birds and dinosaurs.

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A team led by University of Bristol paleontologist Michael Benton reported in Nature on the finding and study of fossilized melanosomes. Taken from Cretaceous period fossils, the melanosomes would likely have originally given skin or feathers their distinctive hues.

For example, Benton’s team studied melanosomes from an ancient bird called Confuciusornis. By looking at the shape of the melanosomes, the scientists determined that Confuciusornis had both black-gray and reddish-brown pigmentation. They also studied Sinosauropteryx, a dinosaur that they claim had reddish-brown stripes on its tail.

More controversial is that the team believes Sinosauropteryx’s coloration was on what were thought to be feather-like “bristles.” According to Benton, discovering melanosomes proves that the bristles were indeed feathers: “We can now say for sure that these bristles are feathers,” he said, justifying the claim on the grounds that discovering organic matter from skin would be less likely. Benton also said, “Critics have said that these [bristles] could be shredded connective tissue. But the discovery of melanosomes within the bristles finally proves that some early dinosaurs were indeed feathered.”1

The melanosomes could be from skin, not feathers, or that the melanosomes could even be misidentified bacteria.

ScienceNOW, however, quotes “longtime skeptic of dinosaur feathers” (and evolutionist) Alan Feduccia of the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill. Feduccia claims Benton’s team “make[s] a leap of faith going from Confuciusornis to Sinosauropteryx” and noted that the melanosomes could be from skin, not feathers, or that the melanosomes could even be misidentified bacteria.

While there’s no particular biblical reason for thinking dinosaurs didn’t have feathers, we remain cautious because the idea is most often presented in conjunction with the idea that birds evolved from theropod dinosaurs. Both ideas are justified on scant or circumstantial evidence that ignores contradictory explanations (e.g., Feduccia’s suggestion that the “melanosomes” were bacteria) and problems with the dinosaur–bird evolution idea (e.g., as recounted in “Birds Did Not Evolve from Dinosaurs, Say Evolutionists).”

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  1. Victoria Gill, “Dinosaur Had Ginger Feathers,” BBC, January 27, 2010,


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