September 21, 2011
Feathers in amber
Long story from the September 17 issue of The Economist short: A paper published in this week's issue of Science reports "the discovery of eleven feathers preserved in amber from the latter part of the Cretaceous (70-85 million years ago). Intriguingly, not all of them seem to come from birds."
The picture above shows filament-like structures believed to be the precursors of feathers.
Below, one similar to feathers sported by modern birds.
Below, feathers demonstrating the coiling behavior seen in modern diving birds; "such coiling allows a feather to absorb water, which streamlines and insulates the owner."
Below, pigmentation preserved in a fossil feather.
Below, the abstract of the Science paper.
A Diverse Assemblage of Late Cretaceous Dinosaur and Bird Feathers from Canadian Amber
The fossil record of early feathers has relied on carbonized compressions that lack fine structural detail. Specimens in amber are preserved in greater detail, but they are rare. Late Cretaceous coal-rich strata from western Canada provide the richest and most diverse Mesozoic feather assemblage yet reported from amber. The fossils include primitive structures closely matching the protofeathers of nonavian dinosaurs, offering new insights into their structure and function. Additional derived morphologies confirm that plumage specialized for flight and underwater diving had evolved in Late Cretaceous birds. Because amber preserves feather structure and pigmentation in unmatched detail, these fossils provide novel insights regarding feather evolution.
September 21, 2011 at 02:01 PM | Permalink
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Amber, natures little time machine.
Posted by: Joe Peach | Sep 22, 2011 4:13:24 AM
Now the truth comes out. Ancient hairdressers are responsible for the great extinction - hair extensions for ancient rock stars like Steven Tyler.
Posted by: 6.02*10^23 | Sep 21, 2011 2:34:56 PM
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