99-million-year-old baby bird found trapped in amber

The fossilized hatchling was a member of the bird group known as enantiornithes, which disappeared along with dinosaurs some 65 million years ago.

Chad Young | Jun 11, 2017

About a 100 million years ago, a newly hatched baby bird fell into a puddle of tree sap. Now, scientists say the specimen is the most complete fossil ever found preserved in Burmese amber.

The discovery is detailed in the journal Gondwana Research.

"It's the most complete and detailed view we've ever had," said co-author Ryan McKellar of the Royal Saskatchewan Museum, in a report by New Scientist. "Seeing something this complete is amazing. It's just stunning."

The fossilized hatchling was a member of the bird group known as enantiornithes, which disappeared along with dinosaurs some 65 million years ago.

About half of the hatchling's body is preserved in the three-inch chunk of amber, including its head, skin, wings, and feathers, according to National Geographic. A clawed foot also is visible.

Although the baby bird had a complete set of flight feathers on its wings, the plumage on its body was sparse and resembles therapod dinosaur feathers, scientists say. Nevertheless, the presence of flight feathers suggests that enantiornithes had the ability to fly from birth and so were less dependent on their parent than modern birds.

CT imaging of the specimen revealed its extraordinary preservation, according to research team co-leader Lida Xing of the China University of Geosciences, who said she originally thought they had just some feathers and a pair of feet.

"The surprise continued when we started examining the distribution of feathers and realized that here were translucent sheets of skin that connected many of the body regions appearing in the CT scan data," said McKellar in the National Geographic report.

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