December 10th, 2016

Dinosaur feathers

An astounding discovery:

A dinosaur tail fragment preserved in amber has been found in northern Myanmar, according to National Geographic.

This remarkable, 99-million-year-old specimen was found by a team of researchers led by China University of Geosciences paleontologist Lida Xing, and their paper on this find was published in the journal Current Biology. Xing’s team dates the tail fragment back to the mid-Cretaceous period, and believes that it belonged to a Coelurosaur, a feathered ancestor the T-Rex.

The fossil itself is slightly less than two inches long and (of course) covered in feathers. Those feathers mark it as an important find, because it represents an early point of differentiation between dinosaur and bird feathers capable of sustaining flight. As it turns out, this dinosaur’s feathers were purely ornamental; they have an open, flexible structure that renders them useless. Flight feathers, on the other hand, have “well-defined central shafts, branches, sub-branches, and hooks that latch the structure together.”…

This fossil also lacks the fused tail vertebrae, or pygostyle, that allows tail feathers to move as a single unit, so there’s no way it could have flown.

5 Responses to “Dinosaur feathers”

  1. Vanderleun Says:

    “Tell her that sheds
    Such treasure in the air,
    Recking naught else but that her graces give
    Life to the moment,
    I would bid them live
    As roses might, in magic amber laid,
    Red overwrought with orange and all made
    One substance and one colour
    Braving time. ”

    — Pound

  2. Sergey Says:

    They were not purely ornamental, they were for warmth. Such tiny creatures needed to keep their warmth to be agile, and most probable were warm-blooded.

  3. expat Says:

    I read this yesterday. It is totally amazing.

  4. Sergey Says:

    Without hooks they were not feathers but down.

  5. Carmen Says:

    Am I seeing things or did I see tiny insects in there too?

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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