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Title

Reconstructing Carotenoid-Based and Structural Coloration in Fossil Skin

AuthorsMcNamara, Maria E.; Orr, P. J.; Kearns, S.L.; Alcalá, Luis; Anadón, Pere CSIC ORCID; Peñalver, E.
Issue Date2016
PublisherCell Press
CitationCurrent Biology 26: 1075- 1082 (2016)
AbstractEvidence of original coloration in fossils provides insights into the visual communication strategies used by ancient animals and the functional evolution of coloration over time [1-7]. Hitherto, all reconstructions of the colors of reptile integument and the plumage of fossil birds and feathered dinosaurs have been of melanin-based coloration [1-6]. Extant animals also use other mechanisms for producing color [8], but these have not been identified in fossils. Here we report the first examples of carotenoid-based coloration in the fossil record, and of structural coloration in fossil integument. The fossil skin, from a 10 million-year-old colubrid snake from the Late Miocene Libros Lagerstätte (Teruel, Spain) [9, 10], preserves dermal pigment cells (chromatophores) - xanthophores, iridophores, and melanophores - in calcium phosphate. Comparison with chromatophore abundance and position in extant reptiles [11-15] indicates that the fossil snake was pale-colored in ventral regions; dorsal and lateral regions were green with brown-black and yellow-green transverse blotches. Such coloration most likely functioned in substrate matching and intraspecific signaling. Skin replicated in authigenic minerals is not uncommon in exceptionally preserved fossils [16, 17], and dermal pigment cells generate coloration in numerous reptile, amphibian, and fish taxa today [18]. Our discovery thus represents a new means by which to reconstruct the original coloration of exceptionally preserved fossil vertebrates.
Publisher version (URL)http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2016.02.038
URIhttp://hdl.handle.net/10261/132570
DOIhttp://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2016.02.038
Identifiersdoi: 10.1016/j.cub.2016.02.038
issn: 0960-9822
Appears in Collections:(Geo3Bcn) Artículos
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