Dinosaur tail found perfectly preserved in amber
Researchers have discovered the tail of a 99-million-year-old dinosaur complete with its feathers and perfectly preserved in a piece of amber from Myanmar.
The finding helps to fill in details of the dinosaurs’ feather structure and evolution, which can not be determined from fossil evidence, the researchers said.
While the feathers are not the first to be found in amber, earlier specimens have been difficult to definitively link to their source animal, they said.
“The new material preserves a tail consisting of eight vertebrae from a juvenile; these are surrounded by feathers that are preserved in 3D and with microscopic detail,” said Ryan McKellar of the Royal Saskatchewan Museum in Canada.
“We can be sure of the source because the vertebrae are not fused into a rod or pygostyle as in modern birds and their closest relatives. Instead, the tail is long and flexible, with keels of feathers running down each side,” said McKellar.
In other words, the feathers definitely are those of a dinosaur not a prehistoric bird.
The study’s first author Lida Xing from the China University of Geosciences in Beijing discovered the remarkable specimen at an amber market in Myitkyina, Myanmar in 2015.
The amber piece was originally seen as some kind of plant inclusion and destined to become a curiosity or piece of jewelry, but Xing recognised its potential scientific importance and suggested that the Dexu Institute of Palaeontology buy the specimen.
The researchers said that the specimen represents the feathered tail of a non-avialan theropod preserved in mid-Cretaceous amber about 99 million years ago.