Lida Xing of the University of Geosciences in Beijing thinks that finding an extinct reptile's rear end inside an amber is fascinating. The paleontologist, who had worked in her field for around ten years, has never anticipated that a day back in 2015 will captivate her.
While strolling along a market in Myanmar, a salesman has offered the scientific investigator an item which was initially believed to be a plant. It is a piece of amber that measured like a rubber eraser.
For the regular eye, the merchandise simply contains a couple of old ants with blurry brown stuff. Looking closely, dense feathers on a tail can actually be seen. Upon Xing's coaxing, the Dexu Institute of Paleontology decides to purchase the artifact.
Aside from knowing what kind of dinosaur the relic is, Xing and his colleagues from China, Canada and the UK manage to unravel the evolutionary data it held. Their work has been published on the Current Biology journal.
It has been investigated that about 99 years ago, a sparrow-sized baby dinosaur has been trapped in a tree resin permanently. The reptile nicknamed Eva belongs to a group of coelurosaurs which is affiliated with the dreaded Tyrannosaurus rex and Velociraptor dinosaurs.
According to Ryan McKellar, co-author of the study and a curator of Invertebrate Paleontology at Canada's Royal Saskatchewan Museum, it is astounding to note that, unlike the usually creepy ones, the organism is rather cute and fluffy.
Details from the study reveal that the hind part's thick feathers look flat. The whip-like tail may indicate that animal is not a bird since flying creatures have vertebrae that is fused into a pole.
A part of the investigative findings is rare considering that fossil feathers are attached to the spine. Today, feathers have a central shaft where hooks hold the plumes together for flying purposes.
The study has also divulged that flight in the past is not possible due to the absence of a central shaft that provides balance and control when the animal is in the air. In addition, the fineness of the barbs and the barbules do not fully support flying.
It is likely that the evolution of feathers began with the development of insulation. The foundation for flight comes in next. The display effect, which involved the color and the fancy structure of the plumes, soon follows.