Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Some Dinosaur Feathers Had Pigments: An Adaptive Advantage.... or the Danger Theory of Evolution

Great story in The New York Times today about dinosaur feathers preserved in amber that show traces of pigment. Eleven 70-million-year-old specimens examined by scientists at the University of Alberta suggst that the feathered animals had an array of mottled patterns and diffuse colors like modern birds, scientists at the University of Alberta, led by Ryan C. McKellar, the NYT reports.

Now why in the world would animals develop pigments anway? Presumably a random mutation that produced them might lead to an adaptive advantage if they made it easier for an animal to hide from predators. Certainly it's clear that camouflage helps. Just ask the squirrel we couldn't see as it clunlg motionlessly to a tree trunk last Sunday as we walked in Mount Royal cemetery. Or those guys in desert fatigues in far too many conflicts....

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