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Molecular composition and ultrastructure of Jurassic paravian feathers.

  • Johan Lindgren
  • Peter Sjövall
  • Ryan M Carney
  • Aude Cincotta
  • Per Uvdal
  • Steven W Hutcheson
  • Ola Gustafsson
  • Ulysse Lefèvre
  • François Escuillié
  • Jimmy Heimdal
  • Anders Engdahl
  • Johan Gren
  • Benjamin P Kear
  • Kazumasa Wakamatsu
  • Johan Yans
  • Pascal Godefroit
Publishing year: 2015
Language: English
Publication/Series: Scientific Reports
Volume: 5
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Nature Publishing Group
Additional info: The information about affiliations in this record was updated in December 2015. The record was previously connected to the following departments: Chemical Physics (S) (011001060), Lithosphere and Biosphere Science (011006002), Max-laboratory (011012005), Functional Zoology (432112239)

Abstract english

Feathers are amongst the most complex epidermal structures known, and they have a well-documented evolutionary trajectory across non-avian dinosaurs and basal birds. Moreover, melanosome-like microbodies preserved in association with fossil plumage have been used to reconstruct original colour, behaviour and physiology. However, these putative ancient melanosomes might alternatively represent microorganismal residues, a conflicting interpretation compounded by a lack of unambiguous chemical data. We therefore used sensitive molecular imaging, supported by multiple independent analytical tests, to demonstrate that the filamentous epidermal appendages in a new specimen of the Jurassic paravian Anchiornis comprise remnant eumelanosomes and fibril-like microstructures, preserved as endogenous eumelanin and authigenic calcium phosphate. These results provide novel insights into the early evolution of feathers at the sub-cellular level, and unequivocally determine that melanosomes can be preserved in fossil feathers.


  • Geology


  • ISSN: 2045-2322
Ola Gustafsson
E-mail: ola [dot] gustafsson [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se

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Functional zoology

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Lund Vision Group