Fossilized tree resin is a treasure in disguise for the scientific community. By analyzing the creatures trapped in amber for millions of years, with samples dating back from the dinosaur age, researchers have been able to uncover and better understand the secrets of the past. The latest piece of amber that contains the fossilized remains of a small feathered dinosaur discovered in Myanmar last year is no exception.
A statement released on Thursday, December 8th, 2016, describes the dinosaur as a feathered creature that used to roam the Cretaceous, no bigger than six inches. However, only its tail has been preserved in amber. Even so, the 1.4-inch tail is a complete structure composed of feathers, skin, bones, and flesh.
What Does the Scientific Community has to Say About the Discovery?
“This is the first of its kind”, according to Ryan McKellar, a paleontologist with the Royal Saskatchewan Museum located in Canada.
The study conducted on the dinosaur’s tail has been published in the Current Biology journal.
According to the team of researchers, the tail originated from a biped bird-like dinosaur. Scientifically known as Maniraptora, this is one of a few dinosaur groups that possessed feathers. Today’s birds started to evolve from these feathered dinosaurs during the Jurassic Period about 150 million years ago.
For studying the remains in detail, the team of scientists used an array of sophisticated methods, including microscopic observations and extensive scanning of the sample. During the investigations, the researchers were able to identify how the feathers attached to the tail and their pigment pattern, according to Mr. McKellar.
Unlike lizards, the maniraptorans were unable to dispose of their tails in life-threatening situations to save themselves. Hence, the fact that the 8-vertebrae tail got stuck in resin and consequently torn off means that the small dinosaur did not survive for long after that.
However, what turned out to be an unfortunate series of events for the dinosaur now proves to be a valuable source of information for the modern scientific community. The team of researchers were able to analyze the feathers in great detail and concluded that they were more primitive than what we are used to seeing in bird feathers. Mainly because the structure was lacking a central shaft. Also, the tail had a flexible structure, which ruled out the possibility of it belonging to a bird.
Image Source: Wikipedia