Feathered fossilised friend


This chicken-like character contains the oldest beta-keratin proteins so far found.


Wang Xiaoli

A team of international scientists led by researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences reported the oldest fossil evidence of beta-keratin from feathers of a 130-million-year-old basal bird.

Feathers and feather-like epidermal structures are well documented in several groups of non-avian dinosaurs and basal birds. Round microbodies associated with these feathers and feather-like structures were first interpreted as microbes.

But more recently, these bodies were reinterpreted as remnant melanosomes – structures that produce pigment.

Find out more in their paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

  1. http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2016/11/16/1617168113
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