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Beetle fossil | photo wired.com

 

(…) These spectacular beetle fossils, ranging from 15 million to 47 million years old, (…) owe their enduring shades to the phenomenon of structural coloration. Unlike pigments, which generate color from light bouncing off a chemical, structural colors are produced by the interaction of light with nanometer-scale surface geometries.

If especially fine-grained sediments replace a dead beetle’s decomposing body, the resulting fossil should replicate its hues, too. “Structural colors don’t need chemicals at all,” said McNamara. “What we wanted to find out was, what kind of structures in the fossils make the color? And are the colors we’re seeing today in the fossils the same as when beetles were alive millions of year ago?”

Prehistoric Colors Preserved in Near-Perfect Beetle Fossils | Wired Science | Wired.com.