- Experts found the pigment that creates ginger coloring in fossilized frogs
- It suggests that ginger has been around for 10 million years, they say
Being a natural redhead is somewhat of a rarity these days.
But ginger has actually been around for 10 million years, scientists say.
Experts have discovered fragments of pheomelanin – the pigment that produces ginger coloring – in fossilized frogs.
And they say their findings will help paleontologists reconstruct the original colors of long-extinct species.
The team, led by researchers at University College Cork, conducted laboratory experiments on black, reddish and white bird feathers to track how pheomelanin pigments break down during the fossilization process.
Being a natural redhead is somewhat of a rarity these days. But ginger has actually been around for 10 million years, scientists say (archive image)
Experts have discovered fragments of pheomelanin – the pigment that produces ginger coloring – in fossilized frogs
They then applied their results to the fossils of Pelophylax pueyoi, an extinct species of large frog, and confirmed that high concentrations of the pigment were present.
Dr. Tiffany Slater said: “This discovery is so exciting because it enables paleontologists to better detect different melanin pigments in many more fossils.”
“This will paint a more accurate picture of ancient animal colors and answer important questions about the evolution of colors in animals.”
Professor Maria McNamara, lead author of the study, added: “Fossils are inevitably altered by the heat and pressure during burial, but that does not mean we lose all of the original biomolecular information.”
“Our fossilization experiments were key to understanding the chemistry of fossils and prove that trace biomolecules can survive cooking during the fossilization process.”
The researchers say their findings will help paleontologists reconstruct the original colors of long-extinct species
Pheomelanin is one of two forms of melanin found in mammals, birds and reptiles. The other form is called eumelanin.
In humans, less than two percent of the world’s population has red hair.
It is the result of a genetic variant that causes the body’s skin and hair cells to produce more pheomelanin.
People with more eumelanin tend to have brown or black hair and skin that tans easily.
The results were published in the journal Nature Communications.