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Amazing Discovery: First 'Well-Preserved' Feathery Dinosaur Tail Found In Amber

Dec 13, 2016 04:45 AM EST
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Scientists were blown away upon finding a well-preserved dinosaur tail in a 99-million-year-old amber from Kachin State, Myanmar. To their surprise, the tail still has feathers on it, including bones and soft tissues.

As per the reports, the discovery was made in 2015, but it was only this week that the findings of the researchers, led by paleontologist Lida Xing of the China University of Geosciences, were published in journal Current Biology.

Natural Science News reported that Xing came across a chunk of fossilized amber for sale during a trip to an amber market in Myanmar. The Dexu Institute of Palaeontology purchased the amber upon noticing the remarkable feature of the specimen, with roughly the size and shape of a dried apricot.

According to Big Think, this is the first time skeletal material from a dinosaur was spotted in amber.

Although it has been known that dinosaurs had feathers, studying the composition of the feathers was almost impossible because the feathers usually found on dinosaur fossils are not well preserved.

As per the description of National Geographic, the 1.4-inch appendage was covered in delicate feathers, described as chestnut brown with a pale or white underside.

What made the scientists sure that the tail belongs to a dinosaur is that CT scanning and microscopic observations show that the vertebrae in the sample are not fused together into a stiff rod. Moreover, the feathers lacked features seen in more modern feathered animals. The researchers speculate that the tail belongs to a juvenile coelurosaur, probably no larger than a sparrow.

In an interview with ResearchGate, Dr. Ryan McKellar, a paleontologist at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum in Canada and an author of the study, described the dinosaur:

"Most members of this group are thought to be bipedal carnivores. The individual that the tail came from would have had rows of feathers coming off the sides of its tail, and this part body would have been fuzzy looking, with pale or white feathers on the underside of the tail, and brown feathers on the upper surface. If this sort of plumage ran the entire length of the tail, it seems unlikely that the animal would have been an active flyer."

The study was funded in part by the National Geographic Society's Expeditions Council.

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