John Pickrell on the Feathered Dinosaur Tail

Weird Dinosaurs

The following is an excerpt from an article that appears in full at the Australian Geographic website by John Pickrell, author of Weird Dinosaurs: The Strange New Fossils Challenging Everything We Thought We Knew on the recent stunning discovery of a perfect dinosaur tail perfectly preserved in amber.

The feathered dinosaur tail in amberDinosaur tail section running through the amber piece, surrounded by ants, a beetle and bits of plant.
IMAGE CREDIT: Royal Saskatchewan Museum/R.C. McKellar

Feathered Dinosaur Tail Found in Amber
John Pickrell

In Jurassic Park scientists found mosquitoes trapped in amber that had traces of dinosaur blood and DNA inside them. That was a fictional scenario, but researchers have now found what is, arguably, a much more exciting piece of prehistory trapped inside fossilised tree resin – the tail of a small carnivorous dinosaur covered in fluffy feathers.

Every week or so these days a new species of dinosaur is revealed to the world, but this specimen – dug up by amber miners in Myanmar (Burma) – has to be one of the most exciting discoveries of the past few years.

I first heard hints of this fossil when I interviewed its discoverer, Chinese palaeontologist Dr. Lida Xing, for my book Weird Dinosaurs early in 2016. Since then I have been waiting with great anticipation to the see these images.

A small coelurosaur dinosaur
A small coelurosaur dinosaur on the forest floor; the creature that left its tail in amber would have looked something like this.
IMAGE CREDIT: Cheung Chung-tat and Liu Yi

Today an international team of scientists – led by Lida, based at the China University of Geosciences in Beijing, and amber fossil expert Dr Ryan McKellar at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum in Canada – reveal the details of the fossil in the journal Current Biology. What they have found is the tail of a small carnivorous dinosaur – it’s from a juvenile animal would have been about the size of a sparrow.

Read the full article at the Australian Geographic website!

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