The tail is over 99 million years old
Just like the movie Jurassic Park, scientists have discovered a 99-million-year-old baby dinosaur tail preserved in amber.
The discovery, which demonstrated a feathered tail, helps support the theory that the giant beasts that once ruled the Earth looked more like birds than reptiles.
Scientists have long thought that dinosaurs might have feathers due to compression fossils that have squished feathers into the sediment. But this is the first three dimensional version they’ve been able to examine.
The find was discovered by Chinese paleontologist Lida Xing who saw the fossil for sale at a market in Myanmar. No bigger than a pink eraser, the salesman told him it was an ancient plant hat had been preserved in the amber resin.
But Xing, who works at China University of Geosciences in Beijing, knew better. He persuaded his department to purchase it and set to work analyzing it straight away.
“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.”
The extinct dinosaur has been nicknamed Eva by a team from China, the U.K. and Canada, who took to the task of studying it and the secrets it holds. They have determined it is a baby coelurosaur, closely genetically related to the famed tyrannosaurus rex and velociraptor.
The team thinks the unlucky baby dino got stuck in amber resin 99 million years ago and wasn’t able to pry him or herself out.
So how did the team know this was a dinosaur and not an early ancestor of birds? Ryan McKellar, who helped examine the dinosaur, explains:
“Modern birds and their close relatives have something called a pygostyle, which is a fused series of tail vertebrae where they form a rod that supports the tail plumage. Modern birds and their close relatives have something called a pygostyle, which is a fused series of tail vertebrae where they form a rod that supports the tail plumage.”
The results of the team’s examination have been published in the journal Current Biology.
For those worried that this find may trigger a modern day Jurassic Parkscenario, they needn’t fret. DNA supposedly cannot survive longer than about seven million years, making it impossible to recreate an extinct dinosaur.