Scientists Discover a Dinosaur Tail Preserved in Amber

Scientists discovered a fragment of a 99-million-year-old dinosaur tail (bones, tissue, feathers and all) preserved in amber. The amber sample had already been polished for jewelry when scientists discovered that it held a bigger treasure: the first dinosaur feathers preserved in amber. Researchers believe the tail came from a juvenile coelurosaur, a sparrow sized dinosaur.

The dinosaur sample captures eight vertebrae from the middle or end of a long, thin tail. Unlike prehistoric (and modern) birds, which have a set of fused tail vertebrae called a pygostyle, the dinosaur tail had articulated vertebrae. The dinosaur feathers also have a poorly-defined central shaft, which means the feathers were more likely to be ornamental than for flight. According to the researchers, if the entire length of this dinosaur tail was covered in the same type of feathers, the dinosaur “would likely have been incapable of flight.”

The amber sample was discovered in a mine in the Hukawng Valley in northern Myanmar, an area that likely contains a rich diversity of animal and plant life from the Cretaceous period, much of it preserved in amber.

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