The tail of a feathered dinosaur has been found perfectly preserved in amber from Myanmar. The one-of-a-kind discovery helps put flesh on the bones of these extinct creatures, opening a new window on the biology of a group that dominated Earth for more than 160 million years.
The tail of a 99-million-year-old dinosaur, including bones, soft tissue, and even feathers, has been found preserved in amber, according to a report published in the journal Current Biology.
Xing Lida, a Chinese paleontologist found the specimen, the size of a dried apricot, at an amber market in northern Myanmar near the Chinese border.
Despite the yawning gulf of time, individual feather fronds can easily be identified. The specimen has even retained signs of its original color and traces of blood.
Ryan McKellar, a paleontologist at the Royal Saskatchwan Museum in Canada says he was blown away when Xing first showed him the piece of amber. “It’s a once in a lifetime find. The finest details are visible and in three dimensions.”
Scientists believe the tail belonged to a small juvenile cousin of Tyrannosaurus rex that lived in Asia 99 million years ago. The tail section belongs to a young coelurosaurian – from the same group of dinosaurs as the predatory velociraptors and the tyrannosaurus.
The sparrow-sized creature could have danced in the palm of your hand. The amber, which weighs 6.5 grams, contains bone fragments and feathers, adding to mounting fossil evidence that many dinosaurs sported primitive plumage rather than scales.
“The more we see these feathered dinosaurs and how widespread the feathers are, things like a scaly velociraptor seem less and less likely and they’ve become a lot more bird like in the overall view,” he said.
“They’re not quite the Godzilla-style scaly monsters we once thought.” After microscope examination, scientists came to the conclusion that the creature must have been brown or white color.
Earlier this year, the same research team described two tiny baby dinosaur bird wings encased in amber, another spectacular example of how extraordinary amber preservation can be, even over 100 million years. Xing believes one day we could find and entire dinosaur.
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