The First Dinosaur Tail Found Preserved in Amber is Covered in Feathers

Photo by R. C. McKellar, Royal Saskatchewan Museum. Courtesy National Geographic.

Photo by R. C. McKellar, Royal Saskatchewan Museum. Courtesy National Geographic.

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A micro-CT scan reveals the delicate feathers that cover the dinosaur tail. Photo by Lida Xing, courtesy National Geographic.

The first known dinosaur tail preserved in a piece of amber was recently discovered by paleontologist Lida Xing while collection samples in Myanmar last year. Dating back to the mid-Cretaceous Period some 99 million years ago, the roughly apricot-sized piece of amber contains a 1.4-inch appendage of 8 vertebrae unmistakably covered in primitive feathers. Scientists ruled out the possibility of the tail belonging to a bird, and based on its structure believe it came from a juvenile coelurosaur, a group of dinosaurs that includes tyrannosaurs. Via National Geographic:

While individual dinosaur-era feathers have been found in amber, and evidence for feathered dinosaurs is captured in fossil impressions, this is the first time that scientists are able to clearly associate well-preserved feathers with a dinosaur, and in turn gain a better understanding of the evolution and structure of dinosaur feathers.

The findings were first published today in a report co-authored by Ryan McKellar in Current Biology and you can read more on National Geographic.

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