Scientific American: Pterosaurs May Have Had Brightly Colored Feathers, Exquisite Fossil Reveals

Artist reconstruction of Tupandactylus imperator. Credit: Bob Nicholls (CC BY)
Our understanding of the evolution of feathers is growing, and a new paper explaint that the unusual soft tissue in a pterosaur fossil found in Brazil might indicate that this creature's early feather had differentiated colors. This suggests a possibility that the color variations were a form of signaling about the age, health, and sex of the creature. New research published in Nature has been reviewed by Riley Black for Scientific American, who writes that:

Long before the first birds flapped and fluttered, pterosaurs took to the skies. These leathery-winged reptiles, their bodies coated with wispy filaments paleontologists call pycnofibers, were the first vertebrates to truly fly. Now experts are beginning to think pterosaurs and birds had more in common than previously assumed: An exquisitely preserved fossil from Brazil not only hints that pterosaurs’ peculiar filaments may have been true feathers but also suggests that this plumage could possibly have been as riotously colored as that of any modern toucan or tanager.

In other words, it may be that pterosaurs were fabulous.

Full Scientific American story here.

Original research article in Nature here.