TWO decades ago palaeontologists were astonished to discover impressions of feathers in rock around the petrified bones of dinosaurs that had clearly, from the anatomy those bones displayed, been unable to fly when they were alive. Astonishment turned to delight with the subsequent discovery of exquisitely preserved examples of these feathers in the petrified tree resin known as amber. Now, a team led by Xing Lida at the China University of Geosciences, in Beijing, and Ryan McKellar at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum, in Regina, has uncovered something even more impressive. As they report in Current Biology, they have found, again preserved in amber, part of a dinosaur’s feathered tail.
Their fossil comes from the Hukawng valley amber mines in northern Myanmar, already famous for many spectacular specimens of life dating from 99m years ago, during the mid-Cretaceous period. The tail in question was once attached to a carnivorous dinosaur from a group known as the coelurosaurs, the most famous member of which is Tyrannosaurus. The coelurosaur here, though, was no tyrannical giant. Its tail bones are only two millimetres wide, suggesting it was not much larger than a modern sparrow. Whether it was fully grown or still a juvenile remains unknown.
from The Economist