99-million-year-old bird trapped in amber is near-perfectly preserved

http://www.sfgate.com/science/article/100-million-year-old-bird-trapped-in-amber-is-11207141.php



Updated 9:24 pm, Thursday, June 8, 2017

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Macrophotograph of a fossilized fungus gnat (Mycetophilidae) embedded in Baltic amber, a fossilized resin, some 30 million years old. 

Macrophotograph of a fossilized fungus gnat (Mycetophilidae) embedded in Baltic amber, a fossilized resin, some 30 million years old. 


Photo: ALFRED PASIEKA/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY/Getty Images/Science Photo Library RF

A spider trapped in amber.

A spider trapped in amber.


Photo: Colin Keates/Getty Images/Dorling Kindersley

 A view of a 99-million-year-old amber containing a section of the tail of a dinosaur estimated about 18.5 centimeters long on December 09, 2016 in Shanghai, China. 

 A view of a 99-million-year-old amber containing a section of the tail of a dinosaur estimated about 18.5 centimeters long on December 09, 2016 in Shanghai, China. 


Photo: Barcroft Media/Barcroft Media Via Getty Images

A view of a 99-million-year-old amber containing a section of the tail of a dinosaur estimated about 18.5 centimeters long on December 09, 2016 in Shanghai, China.

A view of a 99-million-year-old amber containing a section of the tail of a dinosaur estimated about 18.5 centimeters long on December 09, 2016 in Shanghai, China.


Photo: Barcroft Media/Barcroft Media Via Getty Images

Insect in amber. 

Insect in amber. 


Photo: DEA / C. BEVILACQUA/De Agostini/Getty Images

Insects in amber.

Insects in amber.


Photo: Jeff Daly/Getty Images/Visuals Unlimited

Insects preserved in amber.

Insects preserved in amber.


Photo: John Downer/Getty Images

An insect preserved in amber.

An insect preserved in amber.


Photo: DEA/A.RIZZI/Getty Images/DeAgostini

Red, black and bronze-colored insect with finely structured wings, trapped in piece of amber.

Red, black and bronze-colored insect with finely structured wings, trapped in piece of amber.


Photo: Dorling Kindersely/Getty Images/Dorling Kindersley

Insects preserved in amber.

Insects preserved in amber.


Photo: John Downer/Getty Images


A sticky situation for a baby bird 99 million years ago is a coup for modern scientists.

The hatchling, which was just a few days old when it stumbled into a pool of tree sap, roamed the Earth nearly 100 million years ago. 

Scientists, who published their findings in the journal Gondwana Research, say the specimen is the most complete fossil ever discovered in Burmese amber.

“It’s the most complete and detailed view we’ve ever had,” Ryan McKellar of the Royal Saskatchewan Museum, co-author of the paper, told New Scientist. “Seeing something this complete is amazing. It’s just stunning.”

After years encased in amber, the bird’s flesh has likely broken down into carbon, McKellar explained, meaning none of its DNA remains. What is left, however, is a detailed impression of the creature.


“It’s neat because it preserves a very early growth stage,” McKellar told Gizmodo, noting that the bird had just begun to grow its tail feathers. 

The hatchling belongs to a group of toothed birds called enantiornithines, which went extinct alongside the dinosaurs about 65 million years ago. Unlike the birds of today, the enantiornithine had claws on its wings and teeth in place of a beak. 

Researchers named the specimen “Belone,” the Burmese word for Oriental skylark. With further study, Belone could provide critical insight into the peculiar lives of the ancient toothed birds of yesteryear.

Read Michelle Robertson’s latest stories and send her news tips at mrobertson@sfchronicle.com


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