The fragment is wrapped in a piece of amber and contains bones, feathers and blood of the animal, which is estimated to be the size of a sparrow. The genetic material has not been preserved, but this discovery promises to revolutionize the world of paleontology.
For scientists, this is a unique finding. Made in an amber market, on the border of Myanmar, the former Burma, with China. This piece of tail preserved in amber was bought by the scientists to be able to investigate.
The small piece of fossil resin is the size of a dry apricot, weighs only 6.5 grams and wraps around the tail of a small dinosaur. That the local salesman thought it was a simple fossilized plant.
“I’m not sure if he realized the importance of the specimen, but it did not raise the price”, said Chinese paleontologist Xing Lida, who bought the piece of amber and later shared it with Canadian colleague Ryan McKellar.
“I realized the content was a vertebrate, probably a theropod, not a plant”, Xing Lida explained.
The discovery opens new clues about the knowledge of dinosaurs, since it is the first time that part of a mummified skeleton is discovered. According to Ryan McKellar, the tail section belongs to a young animal, from the same group of dinosaurs as velociraptors and tyrannosaurs.
What is more curious is that the creature was about the size of a sparrow and does consolidate the evidence that many dinosaurs had feathers and not scales. Which brings them closer and closer to the vision we have of birds.
The more we see these feathered dinosaurs and the more diffuse the feathers, things like a velociraptor with scales, seem less and less likely. “These come much closer to our general view of birds”, said Ryan McKellar, who co-authored Xing Lida, a scientific paper in Current Biology.
Paleontologist McKellar thinks this creature would have a tail that resembled a whip, like the tail of a rat, but covered with feathers similar to those that shape and color the birds.
“It’s not quite the scaly Godzilla-style monsters we usually think about”, he said in a statement given to the site of the US television network CNN.
Seen under a microscope, tail remnants suggest that the little dinosaur was brown and white, judging by the color of the feathers.