Feath­ered di­nosaur tail found en­cased in am­ber

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH -

WASH­ING­TON:

Re­searchers have dis­cov­ered the par­tial tail of a feath­ered di­nosaur that was pre­served in am­ber some 99 mil­lion years ago, ac­cord­ing to a study re­leased Thurs­day. One of the lead au­thors, Lida Xing from the China Univer­sity of Geo­sciences, hap­pened upon the feath­ered di­nosaur fos­sil at an am­ber mar­ket in Myan­mar last year. The chance find lends fresh insight into the ex­tinct feath­ered crea­tures as well as the evo­lu­tion of feath­ers them­selves.

“This is a new source of in­for­ma­tion that is worth re­search­ing with in­ten­sity and pro­tect­ing as a fos­sil re­source,” said Ryan McKel­lar, one of the sci­en­tists who worked on the study pub­lished in the US jour­nal Cur­rent Bi­ol­ogy. The re­searchers are sure the am­ber has pre­served a di­nosaur and not a pre­his­toric bird, McKel­lar said, be­cause “the tail is long and flex­i­ble.” “The new ma­te­rial pre­serves a tail con­sist­ing of eight ver­te­brae from a ju­ve­nile; these are sur­rounded by feath­ers that are pre­served in 3D and mi­cro­scopic de­tail,” said the co-au­thor and sci­en­tist from the Royal Saskatchewan Mu­seum in Canada.

Though the en­tire tail was feath­ered, the di­nosaur likely could not fly, the pa­le­on­tol­o­gist noted. The plumage prob­a­bly helped the an­i­mal with mat­ing rit­u­als or with ther­mal reg­u­la­tion, McKel­lar said. Feath­ers dat­ing back to the time of di­nosaurs have al­ready been dis­cov­ered in am­ber, but this is the first time sci­en­tists have been able to defini­tively link a spec­i­men to a di­nosaur, re­searchers said. Sci­en­tists an­a­lyzed the am­ber in­clu­sion us­ing CT scan­ning and mi­cro­scopic ob­ser­va­tions.

Their anal­y­sis de­duced that the feath­ers were dark brown on top with a pale or white un­der­side. A soft tis­sue layer around the bones con­tained traces of fer­rous iron from he­mo­glo­bin pre­served in the sam­ple. In the ac­claimed sci­ence-fic­tion film “Juras­sic Park,” sci­en­tists man­aged to clone di­nosaurs from DNA found in a piece of am­ber.

The fos­silized tree resin is of­ten used in jew­elry, but McKel­lar said this find high­lights the im­por­tance of am­ber to pa­le­on­to­log­i­cal re­search. “Am­ber pieces pre­serve tiny snapshots of an­cient ecosys­tems, but they record mi­cro­scopic de­tails, three­d­i­men­sional ar­range­ments, and la­bile tis­sues that are dif­fi­cult to study in other set­tings.”— AFP

SASKATCHEWAN, Canada: This im­age shows a di­nosaur tail com­plete with its feath­ers trapped in a piece of am­ber. — AFP

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