Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Archaeopteryx Shows Its Feathers

A scan of an Archaeopteryx fossil showed that the fossil still contains bits of feather in addition to feather imprints and skeleton.

The details were obtained by firing intense X-rays at the sample generated by a so-called synchrotron radiation source at the Stanford Linear Accelerator in California, US.

Dr Uwe Bergmann, who led the X-ray scanning experiment at SLAC, said: "People have never used a technique this sensitive on Archaeopteryx before....

Another member of the team, Dr Phil Manning, from Manchester University, believes that the study shows there's now a new way to study long-extinct creatures....

As well as identifying the feathers the research team also found that the creature's bones have a chemical composition similar to those of birds lving today.

"To me that's quite exciting," said Dr Wogelius. "It establishes a nutrient link between a and modern birds. If you have a pet bird such as a budgie or a paraquet the key nutrients to get right for your pet's health are copper and zinc."
Unfortunately some feathers and tissue were probably chipped or washed off in the process of preparing the specimen for display. The authors argue for changing preparation techniques to preserve more of the soft tissue remains.