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January 22, 2017

99-million-year-old feathered dinosaur tail preserved in amber

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The fossilized tail (above and below) belonged to a young coelurosaur (below), "no bigger than a sparrow."

Preserved in the amber are its bones, soft tissue, and the feathers that covered its tail.

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The paleontologists who analyzed the tail knew the bones belonged to a dinosaur and not a bird because the vertebrae were articulated; birds and their most direct ancestors have fused vertebrae in their tails.

Scientists believe the feathers would have been chestnut brown.

They're small enough that if all the feathers on the tail were of this size, the dinosaur could not have flown.

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The 1.4-inch-long tail, described in a paper published last month in the journal Current Biology, is part of a treasure trove of fossils that paleontologist Lida Xing from the China University of Geosciences discovered last year at an amber market in Myanmar, in Southeast Asia.

The tail is so small that it suggests the dinosaur was a juvenile; the animal likely died in northwest Myanmar before tree resin encased its tail.

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Fossilized imprints suggest dinosaurs had feathers during the cretaceous period, between 145 to 65 million years ago.

Single feathers have also been found in amber but without bones, and thus no one could conclusively say the feathers were those of dinosaurs and not ancient birds.

This fossil, though, is the first time part of a well-preserved feathered dinosaur has been found in amber.

[via The VergeAtlas Obscura, and the New York Times]

January 22, 2017 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

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[via my Crack©® San Francisco correspondent Richard Kashdan]

January 22, 2017 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

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