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Rare Discovery: Tail of Feathered Dinosaur Fossilized in Amber Found in Myanmar

Dec 09, 2016 04:16 AM EST

In a shocking discovery of a lifetime, a Chinese paleontologist has discovered a fossilized tail of a rare baby feathered dinosaur in the most unlikely of places -- a marketplace in Myanmar.

According to a report from NPR, Lida Xing, a paleontologist at China University of Geosciences in Beijing, was visiting a local market in northern Myanmar in 2015 when he stumbled upon the rare find. A market vendor offered him the fossil, saying that it was a plant. However, Xing immediately knew that the feathered object in the chunk of amber was more valuable than a plant, and was, in fact, from a baby dinosaur.

"I have studied paleontology for more than 10 years and have been interested in dinosaurs for more than 30 years. But I never expected we could find a dinosaur in amber. This may be the coolest find in my life. The feathers on the tail are so dense and regular, this is really wonderful," said Xing.

After years of analysis, the findings of Xing and his colleagues from China, the U.K. and Canada was recently published in the journal Current Biology.

According to the study, the tiny tail in the amber belongs to a coelurosaur, a feathered dinosaur species that existed about 99 million years ago. The study noted that the tiny tail belonged to a young coelurosaur which is about the size of a sparrow, but if fully grown, could be as big as an ostrich.

Tagged with the nickname "Eva," the scientists said that coelurosaurs are related to two other bigger dinosaur species: Tyrannosaurus rex and Velociraptor.

However, what makes the fossil tail extra special is that it was attached to bones in the spines. The scientists observed that the feathers on the tail were spread on the side, allowing it to swing back and forth in a whip-like manner.

"A lot of baby birds look kinda creepy, to be honest. This one was probably fairly cute and fuzzy. Not your terror-of-Jurassic-Park type," says Ryan Mckellar, co-author of the study. It's a spectacular little glimpse. It gives us, basically, a pathway that gets us to modern feathers."

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