Over the last few decades, paleontological artists have often adorned their depictions of extinct, non-avian dinosaurs with a rainbow of picturesque color patterns, in stark contrast to depictions from the earlier part of the 20th Century. In part, this shift reflects the scientific switch from viewing dinosaurs as drab relatives of crocodiles and lizards to viewing dinosaurs as closer relatives of birds. But is there any direct fossil evidence for this change? Well, the answer is no... and yes.No fossils of extinct dinosaurs, including "mummies" complete with fossilized skin impressions, have yet revealed the true color of the dinosaur's skin, at least in terms of what we usually think of as skin. There are fossils of a couple of turtles from the Cenozoic Era that are thought to preserve the pattern of pigmentation on the shell. Nonetheless, in terms of non-feathered dinosaurs, such as Apatosaurus and duckbills, no evidence for skin color has yet been found.Recently, however, a great wealth of astounding fossils representing small, feathered dinosaurs that are not birds has been collected in Early Cretaceous rocks in China, especially near Liaoning. Fossilized feathers, basically modified scales that grow in the skin, have been found on numerous specimens. In 2008, researchers discovered microscopic structures, called melanosomes, within fossilized feathers of an ancient bird. Different kinds of melanosomes create different colors in the feathers. Following this discovery in 2010, two teams of researchers reported finding melanosomes preserved in feathers of two, small, Chinese, non-avian dinosaurs -- Sinosauropteryx and Anchiornis. In the more comprehensive study of Anchiornis, in which 29 samples were analyzed from feathers all over the body of one specimen, revealed that this 155-million-year-old, feathered dinosaur, about the size of a chicken, possessed black-and-white stripped wings and a rusty brown crest of feathers along the top and back of its skull.
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