Dinosaurs in Amber

Reconstruction shows a small, feathery coelurosaur.
The resin-coated branch nearby could snag part of its tail and become amber.
Image: Chung-tat Cheung

I saw lots of news stories recently about the discovery of dinosaur feathers in a piece of amber. The finding has helped provide significant insight into dinosaurs' feather structure and evolution, which can't be determined from fossil evidence.

But my favorite part of the story is that this was not a case of scientist digging out in the field and carefully unearthing specimens in a place thought to be once occupied by dinosaurs. A scientist chanced upon the specimen while shopping in an amber market in Myitkyina, Myanmar.

Microscan of the specimen

Lida Xing found the amber and bought it. She realized it was an important find and is the lead author of the paper on the specimen. She is a lecturer at the China University of Geosciences in Beijing.

The dinosaur tail could have ended up as a keepsake or piece of jewelry.

Researchers use CT scanning and microscopic observations and were able to see the feathers and also found that hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen.

The theory that dinosaurs are crelated to birds is not new. The scientific consensus is that birds are a group of theropod dinosaurs that evolved during the Mesozoic Era. A close relationship between birds and dinosaurs was first proposed in the nineteenth century after the discovery of the primitive bird Archaeopteryx in Germany.

Jurassic Park amber
Many of us remember amber as the source of dinosaur DNA in the first Jurassic Park movie. Amber preserves tiny snapshots of ancient ecosystems. They preserve things that fossils do not contain, such as three-dimensional arrangements and labile tissues.

In the film, blood inside a mosquito found in amber is used to get dinosaur DNA which is spliced with frog DNA to start the dinosaur cloning process.

But that's a movie, and I read that entomologists say that the particular mosquito used in the film is ironically the only species that doesn't suck blood at all.

No comments:

Post a Comment