Pigments decay over time — but if a fossil preserves the microscopic physical structures that generate iridescent color, its hues can be inferred after millions of years. Such was the case with Microraptor, which appears to have possessed dark, iridescent plumage. “I went with dark blue, like a grackle,” said Martyniuk.
Microraptor’s feathers also appear to have been adapted to flight, though its skeleton was not. “Feathers seem to be more malleable in terms of evolutionary selection,” he said. “It’s a creature that was just starting to adapt to living in trees or flying. The skeleton has yet to catch up with the feathers.”