How do we know what color dinosaurs were if all flesh has decayed?

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How do we know what color dinosaurs were if all flesh has decayed?

In: Biology

Depictions of dinosaurs are made with informed, artistic license. Artist, with feedback from evolutionary biologist and other scientist, draw what they think the animals might have looked like, based on how animals today look.

We don’t know for sure. But we know what colors big lizards and birds are today, and as we get a better understanding of how they’re related, we have more reason to think they probably looked like their living relatives.

In most cases, we can’t. We just have to make educated guesses based on their lifestyle, environment, and closest living relatives (i.e. crocodiles and birds).

In a few rare instances, fossils (usually of feathers, but sometimes of skin) can preserve pigment structures called melanosomes which can be analyzed and interpreted. Sometimes this tells us the color, sometimes it just tells us an animal had spots or stripes.

For instance, since c. 2012 we have known that archaeopteryx’ feathers were black.

Fun fact – the Tyrell museum in Alberta has an awesome intact dinosaur with the hide and everything fossilized