Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Dinosaur Camouflage

This well-preserved Psittacosaurus fossil from China shows evidence of dark and light blotching on its skin. Psittacosaurus was a small herbivore of the Cretaceous.

1 comment:

G. Verloren said...

It occurs to me that I'm utterly unsurprised by this - although I wonder if maybe I should be, and if I'm being narrow-minded and making assumptions I ought not about the evolutionary history of camouflage? In either case, it's nice to finally have the evidence to confirm it.

What is somewhat more interesting to me personally, is the realization that I don't fully understand the petrification process. I'm unsure of how skin coloration could be preserved, given that all organic materials have been replaced by minerals, which would of course be of whatever color those minerals themselves are.

The only thing that seems to make sense to me would be if different types of tissue were replaced by different kinds of minerals. But I wouldn't have thought that differently colored patches of skin would be sufficiently different from each other to result in the deposition of different minerals in a uniform way.

Unless the differences present in the skin are the result of structures like scales, which are not of uniform physical properties? But the reproduction depicted in the linked article doesn't seem to suggest the creature was scaled at all - this show it with smooth, leathery skin.

Overall, somewhat confused, and reading up on petrification suggests I'd probably need to talk to a biologist and/or geologist for more detailed and precise information on what's going on here.