First Walking Dinosaur Tail Found Preserved in Amber

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Researchers recently discovered a unique chunk of amber encasing the tail of a non-bird dinosaur — including the first ever preserved skeletal material in history.

Findings published earlier this week in Current Biology attest to the Cretaceous dinosaur tail attained by the Dexu Institute of Palaeontology. Dr. Lida Xing from the department of Geosciences in Beijing first encountered the uniquely preserved fossil at an amber market in Myanmar. The subject was identified as a member of a dinosaur group called Coelurosauria, dating back 99 million years.

The fossil was thoroughly examined by amber expert Dr. Ryan McKellar and underwent extensive CT scanning and microscopic observation. The results revealed insight into the evolutional theory of feathers themselves. The presence of filaments also known as “barbs” without a central shaft called “rachis” as found in modern birds attests to the fossil’s origins and confirms the juvenile dinosaur was part of a non-flight species.

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It is suggested that feathers of coelurosaur animals were used to keep warm or had developed for purposes of exhibition. The 3D orientation of the feather structure is exclusive in that most uncovered fossil feathers are preserved one dimensionally onto slabs of rock.

The findings went so far as to conclude that the creature’s tail had a brown upper surface and pale underside. The dinosaur most likely encountered tree resin while it was still living. The sticky resin in turn removed a few of the feathers from its tail and when dried effectively preserved them it until its recent discovery. 

Dr. McKellar relayed his excitement to the New York Times, “It shapes our view of how feathers came to develop in modern birds, and it gives us a rare glimpse of what dinosaurs looked like and potentially what feathers were being used for in the mid-Cretaceous.”   

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