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Fossil Ink Sacs Yield Jurassic Pigment--A First

from National Geographic News

The ink's been dry for 160 million years--but scientists have for the first time confirmed pigment in two fossilized ink sacs from cuttlefish-like animals, a new study says.

The ancient ink's similarity to modern squid ink suggests this defensive weapon hasn't evolved much since the Jurassic period (prehistoric time line). The brownish-black fossil pigment--a type of melanin called eumelanin--is widespread in the animal kingdom, for example in bird feathers, squid ink, and human hair and skin. The substance has various functions, including protection from the sun and camouflage.

Scientists have previously found hints of eumelanin in fossils, but they've done it through indirect, less reliable means--such as by analyzing images of presumed granules, which is problematic in part because melanin granules resemble bacteria, said study co-author John Simon.

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