Researchers at the University of Bristol and Virginia Tech managed to find out what colour the 50 million-year-old bats had, by analysing their fossils.
The two bats called Hassianycteris and Palaeochiropteryx lived sometime in between the Carboniferous and Miocene eras, about 20 to 300 million years ago. The researchers found the fossils along a lake in Germany.
In the research that was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, it was stated that since the fossils were found in very good shape and were well preserved, they contained melanosomes.
Jacob Vinther, a molecular paleobiologist at the University of Bristol, said that he and his fellow researchers found melanosome structures when analysing the fossils’ microchemistry.
Melanosomes are very important when it comes to determining the colour of those prehistoric animals, because they contain melanin. Scientists say that they examine the shape and size of the melanin (pigment that determines the colour of skin, hair, and fur), in order to find out the original colour of the fossilised bats.
“This means that the correlation of melanin colour to shape is an ancient invention, which we can use to easily determine colour from fossils by simply looking at the melanosomes shape,” Dr. Vinther stated.
According to Vinther, the prehistoric bats had a brown colour, which does not come as a huge surprise to scientists, but at least now they have evidence for it. With that colour, the prehistoric bats looked similar to modern bats.
Cailtin Colleary, a Ph.D. student in geological studies at Virginia Tech University said that most of the times the melanosome structures would not be preserved in the fossils. That is why the colour of the many prehistoric animals was often left open for interpretation.
The colour of the animal is able to tell lot of thing about the species. For instance the colour could provide information on how the animals defended themselves against dangerous predators, on where they lived, on how they attracted a new mate. The colour also plays an important aspect in how the animals respond to each other, and in how they recognise others animals.
Image Source: csmonitor