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Ancient Bird's Feathers Had Iridescent Glow

Nanostructures preserved in feather fossils more than 40 million years old show evidence that those feathers were once vivid and iridescent in color, paleontologists say. Iridescence is the quality of changing color depending on the angle of observation — it's what makes you see a rainbow in an oil slick.
Many insects, such as butterflies, display iridescent colors on their wings, as do many modern birds on their feathers.
The simplest iridescent feather colors are produced by light scattering off the feather's surface and a smooth surface of melanin pigment granules within the feather protein.
Scientists found smooth layers of these melanin structures, called melanosomes, when they examined feather fossils from the Messel Shale in Germany with an electron microscope.
"These feathers produced a black background with a metallic greenish, bluish or coppery color at certain angles—much like the colors we see in starlings and grackles today," said Richard Prum of Yale University, who was part of the team that studied the fossils.

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