Scientists Discover 99-Million-Year-Old Feathered Dinosaur Tail Trapped In Amber

Kenneth Drake
December 9, 2016

The dinosaur tail is believed to be 99 million years old and the amber contains bones, soft tissue, feathers, and Cretaceous-era ant and plant debris.

The specimen was purchased from a Myanmar amber market in 2015 by a Chinese academic who recognized its potential.

Xing contacted paleontologist Ryan McKellar of the Royal Saskatchewan Museum in Regina, Canada, and the team used photographs taken through microscopes and computerized tomography scanning (computer-processed combinations of images taken by x-rays at different angles to reveal interior details of the fossil) to study the eight preserved vertebrae and their feathers.

A 99-million-year-old feathered dinosaur tail has been found frozen in time in an Asian marketplace, being sold as a piece of jewellery. He also added that because of the vertebrae present with the feathers, there was no question that they belonged to a dinosaur that can not fly and not another prehistoric bird.

Have a look at this glimpse back in time almost 100 million years ago in the gallery below and tell us if this might be included in an upcoming Jurassic World sequel.

A decades-long conflict between the Myanmar government and the Kachin Independence Army has been prohibitive to research in the area, but as a resolution nears, Xing is hopeful that extensive research can begin.

"The little bit of tail comes from a dinosaur probably about the size of a robin". "Amber pieces preserve tiny snapshots of ancient ecosystems, but they record microscopic details, three-dimensional arrangements, and labile tissues that are hard to study in other settings", said McKellar.

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The specimen could help scientists better understand how feathers developed as dinosaurs evolved into birds.

"It is the first time that we have found a piece of amber with dinosaur material", said Xing.

In other words, the feathers definitely belong to a dinosaur, not a prehistoric bird. Or did feathers start out floppy and fluffy, with barbs and barbules, and develop the strong central shaft later?

"This is a novel feather type that we haven't seen before".

Researchers working in China have discovered a well-preserved dinosaur tail trapped in amber that could shed light on the evolution of nonavian dinosaurs, a recent study in Current Biology reports.

"It has those really fine branches, which potentially suggests the barbules evolved earlier than we thought", says Jakob Vinther, a paleobiologist at Bristol University in the United Kingdom who was not involved in the study.

The fact that traces of iron from blood hemoglobin is present in the specimen also provides hope for future analysis which might provide scientists with "other chemical information on things like pigmentation or even to identify parts of the original keratin", McKellar told National Geographic.