Saturday, December 10, 2016

First Feathered Dinosaur Tail Found Preserved in Amber

In May 2015 a paleontologist, Lida Xing, found an amber sample presenting some very important information while digging in the amber mines of Mayamar. Inside the plastic amber case was a feathered tail of a dinosaur believed to have been preserved in there for 9.9 million years. Initial analysis of the tail showed that the tail does in fact belong to a dinosaur and not a bird based on the number of vertebrates present. The feathers were also very intriguing as they vary greatly from that of modern birds. The flight feathers that modern birds have are made up of a central shaft, called a rachis, which has smaller barbs jutting out from it, and then even smaller feather filaments, called barbules, coming out from those. The dinosaur feathers however don’t have a rachis, and instead are just made up of the barbs and barbules. This provides information on how feathers first began to develop, and also supports the conclusion that these first dinosaur feathers weren’t used for flight, but instead were most likely ornamental feathers used by the dinosaur to signal to one another.
The tail didn’t just simply provide information on the structural evolution of dinosaurs, scientists were also able to look at the chemistry of the tail’s surface. This revealed the presence of ferrous iron, a decomposition product of hemoglobin that was originally present in the dinosaur’s tissue.  Based on how well the ferrous iron was preserved, it is believed that further analysis will provide much more information about the chemistry of the tail, and possibly even the dinosaur's DNA. Finding well preserved samples of ancient organisms like this is very valuable, as they are not plentiful. The information that this sample has provided and will provide in the future could lead to some important discoveries that will give answers to some of the many questions currently held about dinosaurs.


  1. This is a very interesting discovery. Knowing that non avian dinosaurs also had feathers gives me a much different picture in my mind to what dinosaurs used to look like.

  2. This is pretty cool considering everyone has the idea that these are just giant lizards. Pretty cool to imagine them with feathers now

  3. Whoever was the lucky person to have found that truly did bring back a piece of history. The information that was able to be taking in so far from the feathers is quite intriguing. I am hoping the piece of amber is able to give them more information, which hopefully can shine new light on something that we know so little on.