Yes, they have found it! Proof that feathered dinosaurs did indeed walk this planet millions of years ago. The tail of a feathered dinosaur was discovered from the Kachin State of Myanmar, perfectly preserved inside amber.
Kachin state which has been producing ember for last 2000 years got the attention of the scientific community 20 years back when large amounts of insects were discovered to be preserved inside their amber deposits. Earlier two wings of birds from the dinosaur era were also found from here.
With this new find, scientists are able to clearly establish well-preserved feathers to a dinosaur. The research was funded by the National Geographic Society’s Expeditions Council and led by palaeontologist Lida Xing of the China University of Geosciences.
Lida Xing found the remarkable fossil at the amber market in Myitkina. The amber was already polished and the seller had mistaken the tail inside for some plant.
The research scientists believe that the tail got trapped when the dinosaur was still alive. Analysis of portion, where the tail was cut off from and is exposed, shows trace amounts of ferrous iron. They think it’s left by dried out blood.
The fossil is one of a kind scientific breakthrough as it reveals more information than the traditional bone fossils. Bone fossils undergo severe compressions due to which details of soft layers and surface textures are lost. But when preserved in ember, the full 3D structure of the specimen is preserved.
CT scans and microscopic analysis of the fossil helped reveal how exactly the feathers are arranged on these dinosaurs. Based on the tail structure researchers believe it belongs to a juvenile coelurosaur, part of a group of theropod dinosaurs that includes everything from tyrannosaurs to modern birds.
The research team has performed an in-depth study of the fossil and has published a journal in the “Current Biology”. The study ends with a conclusion that if the entire length of the dinosaur tail was covered in the type of feathers seen in the sample, the dinosaur “would likely have been incapable of flight.” Rather, such feathers may have served a signaling function or played a role in temperature regulation, says Dr RyanMcKellar a co-author of the study.
Lida Xing is more confident now than ever to even discover a complete dinosaur fossil covered in ember. He hopes an end of political conflict over the area (Hukawang Valley) where the amber mines are situated will lead to an increase in scientific access. Maybe someday, many of biology’s puzzling questions and missing links will be answered in this valley of ember.