99 million yo toothed bird found near-perfectly preserved in amber (PHOTOS)
Scientists from China’s University of Geoscience mined the three-inch specimen – the most complete ever found from the Cretaceous period – in the Hukawng Valley in the north of the country.
The study, published in the journal Gondwana Research, reads: “The new specimen brings a new level of detail to our understanding of the anatomy of the juvenile stages of the most species-rich clade of pre-modern birds.”
From the bird’s plumage, the team was able to determine that the hatchling belonged to a species named ‘enantiornithines’ which died out at the time of the mass extinction of the dinosaurs.
Sadly, rather than being used as source material for a dinosaur theme park, the fossilized specimen has instead been sold to the Hupoge Amber Museum in Tengchong City, China.
Of the specimen, just the skull, neck, one wing and a hind limb are preserved in the amber – enough, researchers say, to better their understanding of toothed birds and how they compare to birds in the present day.
Chen Guang, curator of the museum and owner of the specimen, told Xinhua: "Many people thought it was a lizard. But the scales, thread-like feathers and sharp claws on the feet were so noticeable that I thought they must belong to a bird.”
Meanwhile, Tseng Kuo Wei of the University of Taipei believes the bird had been hunting at the time it was struck by the amber.
"There were no obvious signs of struggle,” he said. “The overall posture of the bird resembled hunting, with its lifted body, open claws and beak and spread wings. It was possibly engulfed by falling resin at the exact moment it was hunting."
In March, another near 100 million year old reptile was discovered encased in amber in Myanmar.
The fossil is about 75 million years older than the previous oldest lizard, according to researchers at the Florida Museum of Natural History.