Imagine heading out to a market looking for a nifty toy or trinket—only to find a once in a lifetime discovery. That’s what happened to Xing Lida, a Chinese paleontologist, who found a piece of amber with a dinosaur tail preserved inside from 99 million years ago!
The amber, which is about the size of a dried apricot, contains bone fragments, soft tissue, and feathers. The amber sample also contained decayed blood from the tail, but there was no genetic material. The appendage is about 1.5 inches long.
Scientists have previously found fossil impressions and individual feathers in amber from the dinosaur era. However, the recently-discovered amber is the first of its kind because scientists are clearly able to associate the feathers with a dinosaur.
The tail is from a young coelurosaurian, the same group of dinosaurs as the tyrannosaurus. Scientists say the dinosaur would have been the size of a sparrow and was likely chestnut brown and white. The finding is proof that some dinosaurs were less scaly and more feathered than the movies lead us to believe.
Scientists have run CT scans and looked at the sample under a microscope. There are eight VERTEBRAE in the sample, and scientists think there may have been more than 25 vertebrae in the long, thin tail.
Lida and his co-author, Ryan McKellar, published a report about the finding last month in Current Biology. They believe that if the whole dinosaur tail was covered in the same type of feathers found in the sample, the dinosaur probably would not have been able to fly.
Lida found the dinosaur tail at an amber market in Myanmar, near the Chinese border. The sample likely would’ve wound up as a carving or piece of jewelry had Lida not found it at the market. The find is a good reminder to keep your eyes open because you never know what you’ll see!