Fossil bats’ colours revealed


This video says about itself:

12 August 2015

“”Palaeochiropteryx””­; is an extinct genus of bat from the Middle Eocene of Europe. It contains two very similar species – “”Palaeochiropteryx tupaiodon”” and “”Palaeochiropteryx spiegeli“”, both from the famous Messel Pit of Germany. They are usually found complete and exceptionally preserved, even retaining the outlines of their fur, ears, and wing membranes.

They are one of the oldest bats known, existing around 48 million years ago. Despite this, they were already quite advanced, showing evidence of the ability to hunt by echolocation like modern insect-eating bats.

“Palaeochiropteryx” were small bats … Their wings were short but broad, indicating an adaptation for slow but highly maneuverable flight beneath forest canopies and among dense vegetation. They preyed mostly on moths and caddisflies and were probably nocturnal.

Fossils of both species of “Palaeochiropteryx” were first recovered from the Messel Pit, near the village of Messel, Germany in 1917. They were described and named by the Swiss naturalist Pierre Revilliod. He placed them under their own family – Palaeochiropterygidae. The name “Palaeochiropteryx” means “Ancient hand-wing”, from Greek παλαιός, χείρ, and πτέρυξ.

The two species have only been found at Messel. They are quite common and account for three quarters of all bat fossils found there, with “Archaeonycteris”, “Hassianycteris”, and “Tachypteron” making up the rest. Like other fossils from the locality, they are often found in remarkable states of preservation.

From Reuters news agency:

Mon Sep 28, 2015 3:50pm EDT

Fossilized fur reveals color of 49-million-year-old bats

By Will Dunham

Fossils can do a good job of revealing key aspects of an extinct creature: its bones, teeth, claws, even soft tissue like fur, skin, feathers, organs and sometimes remains of its last meal in the gut. Knowing its color has been a trickier question.

But scientists have figured out how to answer it based on microscopic structures in fossils that divulge pigment, and on Monday disclosed for the first time the fur color of extinct mammals: two of the earliest-known bats.

The bats, called Palaeochiropteryx and Hassianycteris, were a reddish brown.

“Well, the bats are brown. It might not be a big surprise, but that’s what these 49-million-year-old bats are. So they looked perfectly like modern bats,” said molecular paleobiologist Jakob Vinther of Britain’s University of Bristol.

Vinther also has used the method to study colors in dinosaurs, fish, amphibians and fossil squid ink. The method was first described in 2008 regarding a 105-million-year-old black-and-white striped feather from Brazil and also showed that a winged dinosaur from China, Microraptor, boasted iridescent feathers.

“Biologists know a lot about living animals because of color: what sort of environment they live in, how they protect themselves or how they attract mates,” Virginia Tech paleobiologist Caitlin Colleary said.

“But since so little is preserved in the fossil record, the color of extinct animals has always been left up to artists’ interpretations, and important information regarding behavior has been considered inaccessible.”

The bats lived along a lake in the middle of a tropical forest in Germany. The scientists examined the beautifully preserved bat fossils that retained structures called melanosomes.

Melanosomes contain melanin, the pigment that gives color to skin, hair, feathers and eyes. They possess distinctive shapes that indicate pigment color.

“Reddish brown melanosomes are little tiny meatballs around 500 nanometers in diameter, while black melanosomes are elongated sausages about a micron in length,” Vinther said.

Skeptics had questioned whether the structures were bacterial remnants, not melanosomes. But Vinther’s team for the first time got chemical data on the fossils, determining the structures were not bacterial and that they contained melanin remnants.

“I think we’re just scratching the surface in our ability to extract information like this from the fossil record,” Colleary said. “As technology continues to advance, we’ll keep finding information in fossils that we don’t even know is there today.”

The research was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

(Reporting by Will Dunham; Editing by Sandra Maler)

5 thoughts on “Fossil bats’ colours revealed

  1. Pingback: Prehistoric bat ate mammals | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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