Paleontologists studying fossilized feathers have proposed that the shapes of certain microscopic structures inside the feathers can tell us the color of ancient birds. But, new research from North Carolina State Univ. demonstrates that it is not yet possible to tell if these structures – thought to be melanosomes – are what they seem, or if they are merely the remnants of ancient bacteria.
Melanosomes are small, pigment-filled sacs located inside the cells of feathers and other pigmented tissues of vertebrates. They contain melanin, which can give feathers colors ranging from brownish-red to gray to solid black. Melanosomes are either oblong or round in shape, and the identification of these small bodies in preserved feathers has led to speculation about the physiology, habitats, coloration and lifestyles of the extinct animals, including dinosaurs, that once possessed them.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/03/color-fossils-may-just-be-bacteria