Coming hot on the heels of last week’s post regarding the colour of dinosaurs, scientists have been able to decode the full-body colour patterns of an Achiornis huxleyi.
The subject of the new study—the 155-million-year-old Anchiornis huxleyi—turns out to have looked something like a woodpecker the size of a chicken, with black-and-white spangled wings and a rusty red crown (see animation above).
The color patterns on Anchiornis’s limbs are “quite similar to the silver-spangled Hamburg chicken, a domestic breed of ornamental chicken,” said ornithologist Richard Prum of Yale University. Prum is a co-author of the new study and has received funding from the Committee for Research and Exploration of the National Geographic Society (which owns National Geographic News).
Only a short time ago Anchiornis was completely unknown to science. The chicken-size dinosaur species’ color patterns were decoded after the researchers had used a scanning electron microscope to study pigment samples taken from fossil feathers all over a specimen and then compared the samples to pigment from modern birds.