JUN 29, 2016 12:43 PM PDT

99-Million Year-Old Bird Wing Fossils Found in Hunk of Amber

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

Fossils are interesting artifacts that give us a glimpse of an earlier time on Earth. They show us what life looked like prior to our existence, and modern dating techniques have dated some back millions and even billions of years.
 
Fossils can exist in a variety of different forms, but one form that has been getting a lot of attention lately are those found in amber crystals in Myanmar. It was only earlier this year that scientists discovered lizards encased in the stuff, and now they’ve found something else fascinating that really puts a dent in our knowledge of fossils.
 
The latest finding was a set of bird wings that were trapped in similar amber samples and are estimated to be about 99-million years old. The details are published in Nature Communications.
 

Scientists have found one of the world's most intact bird wing fossils from the Cretaceous period.

 Image Credit: Ryan C. McKellar

The wings, which date back to the cretaceous period and contain samples of soft tissue as well as hard tissue, tell us that birds really haven’t changed all that much from then until now.
 
The fossils contain partial wings from a set of birds that are believed to be of the same species, but more notably, it’s the first time that feathers have been associated with skeletal structures in a fossil. It’s very much a 3D structure inside of the amber samples, so there’s a lot to take in from studying them.
 
Although the feathers looked black to the naked eye, a closer look with X-ray micro CT scanning revealed the original tissue colorings are perfectly preserved in the fossil. There are patterns of light and dark colors, including light dots.
 
It’s also noted that the wing skeletons are smaller than that of a hummingbird’s and that they weren’t yet fully developed, so it’s possible that the fossils are that of younglings and not a fully-grown bird.
 
"The biggest problem we face with feathers in amber is that we usually get small fragments or isolated feathers, and we’re never quite sure who produced [them]," says co-author Ryan McKellar of Canada's Royal Saskatchewan Museum. "We don’t get something like this. It’s mind-blowingly cool."
 
This is a big step forward in fossil discoveries because museums often have to do a lot of legwork to guess at the 3D structure that had to exist at some time to create many 2D fossils. Having a 3D fossil eliminates a lot of guesswork and helps give us a clearer view of what existed in the early days of the Earth.
 
Source: National Geographic

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
JAN 30, 2021
Earth & The Environment
Invasive species reduce water resources in Ethiopia
JAN 30, 2021
Invasive species reduce water resources in Ethiopia
An invasive evergreen tree, known as Prosopis juliflora, is quite the thirsty species. Prosopis has taken over large swa ...
FEB 09, 2021
Earth & The Environment
Scientists Spotlight Dangers of Ocean Noise Pollution
FEB 09, 2021
Scientists Spotlight Dangers of Ocean Noise Pollution
Many ocean species use sound to communicate and survive. Sound is a crucial communication method since vision is limited ...
APR 11, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
An Ancient Fish Is Changing Modern Textbooks
APR 11, 2021
An Ancient Fish Is Changing Modern Textbooks
Scientists have used the gar fish to learn more about the network of nerves that links our eyes to our brains. The gar i ...
APR 20, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
The History of Lettuce Domestication Told Through DNA
APR 20, 2021
The History of Lettuce Domestication Told Through DNA
The more we know about the genetic history of food crops, the more prepared we'll be to maintain their growth through en ...
MAY 05, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
DNA From 2,000 Year Old Extinct Date Palms is Sequenced
MAY 05, 2021
DNA From 2,000 Year Old Extinct Date Palms is Sequenced
Researchers have taken 2,000 years old date palm seeds that were gathered from archaeological sites and used them to gro ...
MAY 12, 2021
Plants & Animals
Big Bees Take the Time to Memorize Where the Best Flowers Are
MAY 12, 2021
Big Bees Take the Time to Memorize Where the Best Flowers Are
Bumblebees play crucial roles in nature as pollinators for many wildflowers, and in agriculture as pollinators of field ...
Loading Comments...