Thursday, January 28, 2010

Color their Jurassic world

Artwork by Chuang Zhao and Lida Xing
Reconstruction of two Sinosauropteryx
sporting their orange and white striped tails, borrowed from here

Hi. It's time to color dinosaurs. Woohoo!

First off, there was an exciting discovery by a team of Chinese and British paleontologists and earth scientists reported in Nature. You can read about fossilized melanosomes, pennaceous feathers and integumentary filaments at that article, OR you can do like I did and read the Dinosaur Colors for Almost-Dummies at the NYTimes.

The upshot is that all the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park and any other illustrations you've ever seen were painted out of someone's imagination. Fossils are white or gray or brown, not the color of the original obviously. So there would be no way to know what colors dinosaurs actually were.

Until now!

These scientists made connections over the last four decades that birds have microscopic sacs of pigment in their feathers called melanosomes, and that fossils of extinct birds have the same melanosomes. Paleontologists in the 1970s had started believing that birds evolved from two-legged theropods - dinosaurs. And this led to more studies and evidence of feathers on dinosaurs. And so on.

By analyzing the shape and arrangement of the fossil melanosomes, they were able to get clues to their original color. They determined, for example, that a 47-million-year-old feather had the dark iridescent sheen found on starlings today.

Isn't that crazy?

So I say, let's celebrate and color some dinosaurs! Not that I am going to be limiting myself to the iridescent sheen of starlings. I found this enchanted web site where you can pick from brachiosauruses and megaraptors and dozens of other dionsauruses and color them virtually - any colors in their palette.

See, this is mine. What can I say, I'm not too wild. But you can be as wild as you want, although it does not let you color outside the lines, drat.

- -


João said...

When my kids were little, there was this dinnossaur craze...been to a show with mechanized dinnosaurs they loved it.
My favorite one is still Dino, from the famous Flinstone household.

California Girl said...

Ruth: thank you for the nice comment on my Women blog this morning. I am tired.

Meanwhile, have you ever seen the book "Dinotopia"? It's a wonderfully illustrated, imaginative book for children.

Anet said...

Very interesting! We've often wondered about the colors of dinosaurs.
My Caleb (18) was a big dino fan when he was little. He knew all their names and ran around the playground screeching like a dinosaur and scaring other children away.

ellen abbott said...

I saw that yesterday. Very interesting. I a;ways figured they would be colored much like all living things today, with markings to help them blend into their environment.

Babs-beetle said...

I think they would be like lizards are today. All varying in colour, with some like chameleons.

Peter said...

My passion for dinosaurs has until now been quite limited, but maybe you woke up my interest! :-)

Went to visit your links. I saw some 80 to colour, but then looked up on Google and saw that some 700 are known and that several hundred still are to be dicovered! Amazing! ... and all gone!

Sandy said...

Ohhh I'm off to color, thanks.

Bagman and Butler said...

Yes! I heard that story on NPR radio.

Bella Rum said...

Good grief, Ruth. How interesting is this? I have to go now. I have some coloring to do.

Jeanie said...

Well, this sounds really cool -- and a whole lot more fun than doing anything else I know today!

Oliag said...

...I went and colored one all in pretty pink and blue pastels...just in honor of my granddaughter who is "Pinkalicious"...You can find just about anything on the internet can't you...Thanks for the fun:)

Loring said...

"Birdies" by Pere Ubu (David Thomas):

I gotta get holda myself.
I gotta pull myself up by my socks.
I gotta grab myself by the collar and shake!
The birdies are singing.
The birdies are saying what I want to say.

Now watch this close.
(Oh, I should say 'closely.')
Here we go!
The foot goes up.
And the foot goes down.
And so I move along.
And actually get somewhere,
actually get somewhere.
And when the feet,
the big feet get tangled...
And I fall down on the ground?
Well, I get back up.
I get right back up!

"Smithsonian Institute Blues"
By Captain Beefheart

Come on down t' the big dig
Come on down t' the big dig
Come on t' the big dig
Singin' the Smithsonian Institute blues
Singin' the Smithsonian Institute blues
The way it's goin' La Brea tar pits
I know you just can't lose
The new dinosaur is walkin' in the old one's shoes
Come on down t' the big dig
Can't get around the big dig
This may be premature but if I'm wrong
You can just say it's the first time I was happy t' be confused
Singin' the Smithsonian Institute blues
Alll you new dinosaurs
Now it's up t' you t' choose
It sure looks funny for a new dinosaur
T' be in an old dinosaur's shoes
Dina Shore's shoes
Dinosaur shoes
C'mon down to the big dig
You can't get around the big dig
C'mon to the big dig
Ya can't get around the big dig
Singin' the Smithsonian Institute blues

Catch the synchronicity therein?
The birdies are saying what I want to say!

Vagabonde said...

What a great discovery. Now I need to get more crayons and coloring book on dinosaurs for my grandsons – although I bet they have some already. When I was small I never saw a coloring book with dinosaurs – more like ships and airplanes…

C.M. Jackson said...

ruth--since I do not have children and I was a liberal arts major--the dinosaur thing never entered my brain until I walked into the Museum of Natural History on a visit with my nephews and nieces and saw their faces when they saw the compendium of dinosaur knowledge that exists there. Imagine the earth at a time these creatures were walking about. Color me happy at the memory at their awe. best c

Claudia said...

That IS amazing! I love science and I'm proud that Ana wants to become a scientist.

Ginnie said...

Oh Ruth! That is too-too fun. Gotta love it. :)

rauf said...

Ever thought what is colour Ruth ?

There are colours in the universe we humans are never going to see

Salinger died today Ruth, i thought he died long ago.

Loring Wirbel said...

Rauf, many people are still trying to claim that Salinger and Thomas Pynchon were the same person. But when Pynchon was the road manager for the rock band Lotion in the mid-1990s, he insisted Salinger could never carry an amplifier. Now we will see who was telling the truth.

rauf said...

oh thank you Loring, never knew about that, never heard of lotion either.

Loring Wirbel said...

Rauf, neither had most people, until Pynchon wrote the liner notes to their albums and revealed his hidden job!

Sidney said...

You got a colorful Saurornithoides here ! Bravo :-)

CottageGirl said...

To think that they can tell what color dinosaurs were a bazillion years ago is an amazing thing! I love the color the dino interactive!
I'll be showing my kiddos this site! Thanks!

Ruth said...

João it seems that most boys go through the dinosaur craze, and Legos too. Oh I love Dino! That brought back great memories. Remember how loooooong their house was? Had to be for Fred to run so far chasing Dino.

Ruth said...

California Girl, I know. You get tired, I get tired, uninspired. I find that inspiration is what I long for, then I can do anything.

And Dinotopia is an incredibly inspiring book series! Have you seen the dinotopia site?? It's extraordinary, and you can see James Gurney's techniques for illustrating his world, it is truly gorgeous. Thank you so much for bringing up the world of Dinotopia!

Ruth said...

Anet, wow, you actually thought about the real color of dinosaurs. I wonder if Caleb was a raptor? Those were the scariest to me in Jurassic Park. That scene in the kitchen with the kids!

Ruth said...

Ellen, I wonder if the males and females had different coloring.

Ruth said...

Babs, I was surprised to read in the article that many dinosaurs may have had feathers.

Ruth said...

Peter, maybe Poloma would like to color one?

I didn't know that 700 dinosaur species are known and hundreds more suspected. (Sometimes I wonder about the efficacy of this kind of study on matters of immediate import today. But you never know when some piece of science will contribute to knowledge we need for survival. I guess scientists should go after their passion, for the most part.)

Ruth said...

Sandy - maybe with your grandkids?

Susan said...

Sometimes it's good to color inside the lines! :)

This is great, Ruthie! The grandkids are going to love these sites, the boys are all about dinosaurs. And they're always asking, "Grammy, can we print?" This time I will definitely say YES!! I might even want to color a few myself!

Ruth said...

B&B, it's so nice of those nice people at NPR to tell us things while we're driving.

Ruth said...

It's so fun, Bella! I look forward to real crayon coloring with grandchildren.

Ruth said...

Jeanie, don't you love the big dinosaur skeleton in the MSU Museum??

Mama Zen said...

My little girl is going to have a lot of fun with this!

Ruth said...

Oliag, I'm glad it was fun. I started with a pink one too. You were already having fun with your new iPhone though. Digital fun overload!

Ruth said...

Loring, something about birdies, two feet stomping, getting tangled, in old shoes, old dinosaur shoes, the dinosaur and the birdie, maybe the birdie is the new dinosaur in old dinosaur shoes.

Dina Shore - how cute is that, and I bet she woulda laughed at the connection!

Ruth said...

Vagabonde, I remember coloring children in stories. I really loved coloring, and my favorite colors were orchid and periwinkle.

Ruth said...

C.M., Don and I just got to that museum for the first time last year, it was a real treat, especially since it was the mother of all thunderstorms outside, and we were glad for shelter, along with dinosaur bones.

Ruth said...

Claudia, I am proud of Ana too.

Ruth said...

Boots, I just remembered that I had a Flintstones coloring book! I wonder if you ever colored it in with me.

Ruth said...

rauf, my mind is so far from being scientific that if I think about what color is, it makes my head hurt. So I just feel what it is.

I thought Salinger was dead too. I read Catcher, and that's it. I think I was 14. As I said over at Claudia's, I think I might get it more now at 53.

Ruth said...

Loring, how extraordinary! I hope you'll keep us posted, Mr. Music Man.

Ruth said...

Almost as colorful as your fireworks, Sid!

Ruth said...

CottageGirl, I hope they enjoy!

Ruth said...

Susie, that sounds like a good Saturday afternoon project for the kiddos.

But nothing beats real coloring, picking out those Crayola colors.

Ohhhh, grandbabies.

Ruth said...

Mama Zen, sweeeet!

shoreacres said...

Ruth, this is just wonderful, and so much fun.

Not only that, I showed it to mom, who said, "Could I color one?" It's the first time she's dared touch a computer key - the power of "art" wins again!

Laughing, too... My verification word is "mopen". Shorthand for "mom opens up", perhaps?

Ruth said...

Linda! Your mom could get lots of practice since there are 80 to color. It would be quite a no-mind tutorial, the best kind.

Watch out, she might get to be like Don's mom who plays video games at 81 (I think your mom is in her 90s?).