The tail of a dinosaur in amber (including feathers)
A year ago, Dr. Xing of the China University of Geosciences found a fragment of amber, which preserved the feathered tail of a 99-milliom-year-old dinosaur, at an amber market in Burma. The Dexu Institute of Paleontology purchased the finding, and yesterday an article on the research results was published.
This is the first finding of its kind – bones, soft tissue and feathers are preserved here. The samples of feathers had been known to paleontologists, but it was impossible to relate them with skeletal material. In this case, the researchers believe that these are the remains of a young coelurosaur, although it was not possible to determine the species exactly. It was comparable to a present-day sparrow in size.
The amber preserved eight elongated cylindrical-shaped vertebrae. This is a fragment of the middle or the end of the tail. They report that the entire tail evidently consisted of more than 25 vertebrae (just do not ask me how this was determined).
As the authors of the article say, the study of the structure of feathers confirms the hypothesis that by the time of evolution, when barbs were stuck together and formed spines, they had barbules.
The color of feathers varied: they were light or white from below and brown from above.
Furthermore, the location of feathers on the tail was examined – they grew on the sides. If feathers grew like this over the entire length of the tail, then this dinosaur was likely to have limited abilities to fly.
Finally, they found iron in the sample, which was previously contained in hemoglobin. The scientists hope that sooner or later they will be able to receive other chemical data, for example, on pigmentation and keratin.