The tail of a 99-million-year-old dinosaur, including its bones, soft tissue and feathers, has been discovered embedded in amber in Myanmar’s northernmost Kachin state, according to a study published in Current Biology’s Friday edition. The expedition, headed by paleontologist Lida Xing of the China University of Geosciences, found a “1.4-inch appendage covered in delicate feathers”, which have been described as chestnut brown in colour with a pale or white underside.
This is reportedly the first time that researchers will be able to study a dinosaur’s well-preserved feathers in the decades-old search to determine their evolution and structure. The discovery could help differentiate between the feathers of birds of flight and the feathers of dinosaurs, according to National Geographic.
Scientists part of the project observed that if the dinosaur was covered in the same type of feathers as birds, it “would likely have been incapable of flight.” A co-author of the study, Ryan Mckeller, told the magazine that the feathers could have been more instrumental in temperature regulation.
Lida believes that their access to the amber mines in the state’s Hukawng Valley would increase with the likely conclusion of a decades-old conflict between the Myanmar government and the Kachin Independence Army. It could also possibly lead to the discovery of a “complete dinosaur”, according to National Geographic, whose Society’s Expeditions Council partly sponsored the study.