Some birds may not be as colorful as peacocks or parrots. However, there are many bright-colored feathered friends. 

One reason for this is to attract mates. According to US researchers, it appears that the dinosaurs could have used colour to do the same thing.  

Sarah Davis (a doctoral student at the University of Texas at Austin), lead author of this study, said that living birds can use a variety of pigments. 

“We might expect that extinct dinosaurs would have similar colours.” 

This conclusion was based on broader observations about the skin and colour of tissue in extinct dinosaurs and living birds’ common ancestor. 

Attention-grabbing: Dinosaurs may have popped with colour on their faces and feet to entice mates (pictured in an artist's impression) - just like pigeons, a new study has claimed

Attention-grabbing: It is possible that Dinosaurs used color to lure mates (pictured here in an artist’s impression).


An archosaur refers to a reptile belonging to a group which includes dinosaurs, pterosaurs, and today is only represented by the Crocodiles.

Archosauria is a term that can be used to describe the “ruling reptiles” and it can be identified by single openings on each side of the skull in front of their eyes. This makes them appear smiling.

Together with the pterosaurs family of flying reptiles and their land-based relatives, the dinosaurs the dinosaurs, crocodiles were an offshoot from the archosaurs.

The first dinosaurs and the oldest crocodiles were a lot like each other, more so than they resembled either of the first pterosaurs which evolved from archosaurs.

Researchers estimated that the common ancestral member had 50% probability of having brightly coloured soft tissue. This was after analysing the body color of living dinosaur relatives such as turtles, Crocodiles, and more than 4000 bird species.

These colours typically come from carotenoids — a class of colourful red, orange and yellow pigments that birds extract from their food. 

Carotenoids don’t fossilize as well as black and brown pigments. This means that scientists must study the colour of living organisms to find clues to how extinct relatives might have looked.

To make phylogenic reconstructs (a scientific technique used to examine the evolutionary history of species), the researchers used data taken from birds and other mammals. 

This 50% estimate of bright color applies to the skin, beaks, and scales for all archosaurs. 

Davis stated that the research found that there was an 0 percent chance of feathers or claws being brightly colored. This is in line with previous research.

Her team and she also examined the relationship between color and high-carotenoids diets.

Researchers found that bird-eaters who had higher levels of carotenoid intakes were more colourful than birds who consumed meat. 

Bright colours are also found in plant-eating birds more than meat eaters and omnivores.

Julia Clarke from the University of Texas at Austin, co-author of the study, said “The first dinosaurs were large and could eat large vertebrate prey.” 

Different groups changed to plant-dominated and mixed diets. The shift in diet likely caused changes in skin colour and other non-feather tissue.

The research not only reveals the existence of dinosaurs but also re-examines how living birds are seen. 

By analysing whether bright body colour was present in living dinosaur relatives —including turtles, crocodiles and over 4,000 bird species — the researchers estimated that a common ancestor of dinosaurs and living birds, an ancient archosaur, had a 50 per cent chance of having bright colours in the soft tissues of its body

By analysing whether bright body colour was present in living dinosaur relatives —including turtles, crocodiles and over 4,000 bird species — the researchers estimated that a common ancestor of dinosaurs and living birds, an ancient archosaur, had a 50 per cent chance of having bright colours in the soft tissues of its body

A pigeon

A toucan

Researchers believe that Toucans and Pigeons use colour to attract mates. This may have also been why dinosaurs had such a vibrant display.

Davis said that despite the bird groups examined in the study having a reputation for being drab — especially in comparison to songbirds, which were excluded from the research because they are the most distantly related to their non-avian dinosaur ancestors — many turned out to be quite colourful when not just looking at feathers. 

Bright colours were found in approximately 54% of 4,022 birds species. 

86% of these species were brightly colored in non-feathered tissues.

Mary Caswell Stoddard is an associate professor at Princeton University. She said the research provided valuable insights into bird color that are often overlooked. 

‘There is so much more to birds’ colour than their plumage—just think of the vibrant orange-yellow bill of a toco toucan—but feathers tend to get the most attention,’ she said. 

“This research reveals the evolution of coloration based on carotenoid pigments not only in plumage, but also in beaks and skins of birds and relatives.” 

The journal Evolution published the research. 


Earth was ruled by dinosaurs around 66 million year ago. They then suddenly vanished. 

This mass extinction is known as the Cretaceous Tertiary Extinction Event.

For many years, it was thought that climate change had destroyed the food chains of large reptiles. 

In the 1980s, paleontologists discovered a layer of iridium.

This is an element that is rare on Earth but is found  in vast quantities in space.  

This was precisely when it occurred that the dinosaurs vanished from fossil records. 

A decade later, scientists uncovered the massive Chicxulub Crater at the tip of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, which dates to the period in question. 

These two events are now considered to be linked by scientific consensus. They were probably both caused by an enormous, rocky asteroid hitting Earth.

The collision, given its projected impact velocity and size, would have likely caused a huge shock-wave that could have triggered earthquake activity. 

Fallout from the explosion would likely have produced plumes filled with ash, which could have covered most of the globe and rendered it impracticable for dinosaurs. 

Others animals and plants had shorter life spans between generations, which enabled them to live.

There are many theories about the causes of death for the famous animals. 

A few theories suggested small mammals might have eaten the eggs of dinosaurs. Others proposed that they were killed by toxic angiosperms.