Thursday, September 10, 2009

Fossilized Feathers Resemble Starlings and Grackles

Here is some interesting news I just came across—the first traces of color in a bird feather were discovered in a 47 million year-old fossil.

Image Source:

Here is an excerpt from the New York Times article:

To find well-preserved feathers, the scientists traveled this May to a famed
fossil site in Germany near the village of Messel, where exquisitely preserved
47-million-year-old bird fossils are regularly dug up in an old quarry pit.
The scientists inspected several fossils and removed small pieces from 12
fossilized feathers. They returned home to put the material under a scanning
electron microscope. “You can see a surface of beautifully packed together
melanosomes,” said Richard Prum, a Yale expert on feather colors. “This looks
exactly like a grackle or a starling, where you have a dark glossy bird with a
metallic sheen.”

To read the entire New York Times article visit:

I personally think Grackle feathers are more metallic-looking, but I'm not expert. Clearly, since I have trouble keeping starlings and grackles straight!


Chris Petrak said...

Fascinating - thanks for bringing this to our attention

Birdinggirl said...

@Chris- thanks! It's been a slow summer for birding for me so I try to make up for that where I can :)

Dawn Fine said...

Howdee..nice info thanks!
I have been out of internet range for over two weeks just catching up! So u are birding Central park now?? looking forward to a post of your visit!