Discovering the colors of fossilsS

For the first time, scientists have been able to spot pigments in fossilized soft tissue — but for now it's only brown and black. This isn't the first time we've seen attempts to color check dinosaurs, but the previous attempts used melanin pigment molecules, which often aren't well preserved. The new research instead looked for trace metals that are associated with eumelanin, the pigment that produces brown and black coloration in feathers and skin. These trace amounts of metal survive far better than the molecules that housed them, and can provide us with information on how the fossilized animals originally looked.

Discovering the colors of fossilsS

Researchers used X-ray synchrotron techniques to scan the fossils of the ancient birds Confuciusornis sanctus and Gansus yumenensis, a method which probes the remains and shows the molecular makeup of the fossils. Then they compared the distribution of metals to existing bird's feathers. That's C. sanctus in the image above, which they now think had a dark body and light wings.

Now we just have to figure out similar techniques for the rest of the color spectrum, or else be stuck with ancient animals that had all the color-range of a modern FPS.