If you think the above image is of a feather and not of a frond, you would be correct. But that’s not all there is to it. What you are looking at is a feathered dinosaur tail with primitive plumage trapped in Mid-Cretaceous amber! WOW. The amber is thought to be about 99 million years old.
We normally think of dinosaurs of being very, very, large creatures. But there were also very small dinosaurs. The tail was from a feathered dinosaur about the size of a sparrow. It was found perfectly preserved in amber from Myanmar. Detailed examination of the structure of the feathers revealed they were from a dinosaur and not from a bird.
The amazing piece of amber was found by Lida Xing from the China University of Geosciences in Beijing at an amber market in Myitkina, Myanmar. The amber had already been polished for jewellery and the seller had thought it was plant material. The sharp-eyed Lida Xing recognized it as something much more exciting.
One of the co-authors of the article published in the journal of Current Biology Prof Mike Benton, from the University of Bristol, noted: “It’s amazing to see all the details of a dinosaur tail – the bones, flesh, skin, and feathers – and to imagine how this little fellow got his tail caught in the resin, and then presumably died because he could not wrestle free.”
3D imaging of the fossil has reveled how the feathers were arranged on the creature, something impossible to tell from fossils in sedimentary rocks.
The image showing the fine structure of the feathers is from the article in Current Biology. Details of the research along with photomicrographs and SR X-Ray μCT Reconstructions are available online.
A report on the BBC web site includes an artists impression of what the tiny dinosaur might have looked like.
Journal of Current Biology
Authors of the article: Lida Xing13, Ryan C. McKella, Xing Xu13, Gang Li13, Ming Bai13, W. Scott Persons IV, Tetsuto Miyashita, Michael J. Benton, Jianping Zhang, Alexander P. Wolfe, Qiru Yi, Kuowei Tseng, Hao Ran, Philip J. Currie