The tail of a 99-million-year-old dinosaur, including bones, soft tissue, and feathers, has been found perfectly preserved in amber.
Lida Xing from the China University of Geosciences in Beijing, discovered the one-of-a-kind fossil at an amber market in Myitkina, Myanmar.
The amber had already been polished for jewellery and the seller had thought it was plant material. On closer inspection, it turned out to be the tail of a feathered dinosaur about the size of a sparrow.
By tracking down the amber miner who had originally dug out the fossil, Xing was able to establish where it had come from.
Ryan McKellar, curator of invertebrate paleontology at Canada’s Royal Saskatchewan Museum, said the tail’s anatomy showed it definitely belonged to a feathered dinosaur and not an ancient bird.
And it may have looked like this:
— Royal Sask Museum (@royalsaskmuseum) December 8, 2016
The 1.4-inch appendage covered in delicate feathers, described as chestnut brown with a pale or white underside, is believed to have belonged to a juvenile coelurosaur, part of a group of theropod dinosaurs that includes everything from tyrannosaurs to modern birds, National Geographic reports.
Xing told CBC:
This is the first time that skeletal material from a dinosaur has been found in amber. Previous finds in amber have included isolated feathers that may have belonged to dinosaurs, but without an identifiable part of the body included, their source has remained open to debate.