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Scientists find dinosaur tail in mid-Cretaceous amber

By : Xinhua | Published: 2016-December-14

[InKunming--China] Scientists announced Friday in Beijing that a fossilized-feathered dinosaur tail has been discovered in a piece of amber, complete with bones and feathers.

Researchers believe that the tail belongs to a tiny dinosaur that lived about 99 million years ago during the mid-Cretaceous period.

A paper on the findings, co-authored by Chinese paleontologist Xing Lida, Canadian scientist Ryan C. McKellar and others, has been published in the journal "Current Biology."

The tail is six centimeters long, by which scientists estimate that the dinosaur was around 18.5-centimeters long. The tail is covered with brown feathers on the front and pale white feathers on the back.

"The specimen is very close to what it would have looked like when the dinosaur was alive," Xing said.

The dinosaur's feathers will be used by scientists to understand the early evolution of feathers, according to McKellar.

The amber specimen was found in Hukawng Valley in northern Myanmar. In June, Xing's team announced that they had found amber specimens containing the remains of prehistorical birds.

The dinosaur tail sample, named "Eva," contains at least nine caudal vertebrae but it does not belong to a bird, said Xu Xing, a paleontologist from the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

It is likely that the dinosaur belonged to the maniraptora branch, which include many tiny species, such as the anchiornis, a tiny dinosaur with feathered wings that lived in northern China about 160 million years ago. The anchiornis was only about 34 centimeters long and weighed 110 grams.

The research team used imaging and analysis methods to create a high-definition 3D mock-up of the caudal vertebrae behind the feathers.

While the specimen is in near-perfect condition, there is no chance of the team extracting DNA to make clones, as Eva is nearly 100 million years old, far exceeding the DNA half-life, which is generally put at 521 years.

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