Just out | Melanins in Fossil Animals: Is It Possible to Infer Life History Traits from the Coloration of Extinct Species? @ International Journal of Molecular Sciences


Just out @ International Journal of Molecular Sciences


Melanins in Fossil Animals: Is It Possible to Infer Life History Traits from the Coloration of Extinct Species?


Author(s)

Juan J. Negro, Clive Finlayson, Ismael Galván


Abstract:

Paleo-colour scientists have recently made the transition from describing melanin-based colouration in fossil specimens to inferring life-history traits of the species involved. Two such cases correspond to counter-shaded dinosaurs: dark-coloured due to melanins dorsally, and light-coloured ventrally. We believe that colour reconstruction of fossils based on the shape of preserved microstructures—the majority of paleo-colour studies involve melanin granules—is not without risks. In addition, animals with contrasting dorso-ventral colouration may be under different selection pressures beyond the need for camouflage, including, for instance, visual communication or ultraviolet (UV) protection. Melanin production is costly, and animals may invest less in areas of the integument where pigments are less needed. In addition, melanocytes exposed to UV radiation produce more melanin than unexposed melanocytes. Pigment economization may thus explain the colour pattern of some counter-shaded animals, including extinct species. Even in well-studied extant species, their diversity of hues and patterns is far from being understood; inferring colours and their functions in species only known from one or few specimens from the fossil record should be exerted with special prudence.

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Keywords: dinosaur; fossil; paleo-color; skin coloration; countershading; pigments; melanin; melanosome


DOI: 10.3390/ijms19020230


READ IT HERE: http://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/19/2/230


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Lurdes Fonseca

Assistant Professor and Researcher at University of Lisbon
Sociologist (PhD), Paleontologist (Researcher in Micropaleontology), Majors in Sociology and Biology, Minor in Geology. Main interests in Paleontology: Microfossils, Molecular fossils, Paleobiology and Paleoecology. (read more about me)