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A rainbow world for dinos

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By Kirsten Peters

Children have always drawn and colored dinosaurs.  

Vibrant oranges and yellows have competed with blues and greens. Now scientists are starting to catch up with what kids have always intuited about the dinosaurs of the Mesozoic Era.

For generations we geologists drew dinos in black and white. Partly, I suspect, that was our habit because our books were printed that way. And just for that simple reason, we may have started to think about Earth’s ancient past in gray terms. I know I did. Fossils are drab, and when all the drawings of fossils you make or see are black and white, it’s easy to start sliding into the assumption that the world of millions of years ago was much less colorful than ours.

When the printing revolution came that transformed our books into color (imagine!), dinos started to be represented as ever so slightly more colorful. Some of them graduated to earthy colors around that point, so that dun colored dinos wandered through richly green plants or waded into blue waters. It wasn’t much for the dinos, making them all look like elephants, but at least their world was more interesting.


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