I hope your holidays were everything you wished for and that today is a very smiling day for you to start off the New Year with. It is going to be a wonderful year for us at the museum, and hopefully you will come and join us on our special events we have during the course of 2017. We are excited about seeing all our members and supporters (some of who have been with us since we opened), and to making new friends for the future.
Researches from China, Canada, and the University of Bristol have discovered a dinosaur tail complete with its feathers trapped in a piece of amber. The finding reported December 8, 2016 in Current Biology and Science Daily helps to fill in details of the dinosaurs’ feather structure and evolution. The feathers are not the first to be found in amber, but earlier specimens have been difficult to definitively link to their source animal.
Credit: Ryan McKellar/Royal Saskatchewan Museum
Ryan McKellar, from the Royal Saskatchewan Museum in Canada, said: “The new material preserves a tail consisting of eight vertebrae from a juvenile; these are surrounded by feathers that are preserved in 3D and with microscopic detail. We can be sure of the source because the vertebrae are not fused into a rod as in modern birds. Instead, the tail is long and flexible, with keels of feathers running down each side. The feathers definitely are those of a dinosaur not a prehistoric bird.”
Lida Xing from the China University of Geosciences in Beijing discovered the specimen at an amber market in Myitkyina, Myanmar in 2015 and recognized its potential scientific importance and suggested that the Dexu Institute of Paleontology buy the specimen. Researchers say the specimen represents the feathered tail of a theropod preserved in mid-Cretaceous amber about 99 million years ago. The feathers suggest the tail had a chestnut brown upper surface and a pale or white underside.
These findings show the value of amber as a supplement to the fossil record. Amber pieces preserve tiny snapshots of ancient ecosystems, but they record microscopic details and three dimensional arrangements that are difficult to study in other settings.
The researchers say they are now eager to see how additional finds from this region will reshape our understanding of plumage and soft tissues in dinosaurs and other vertebrates.