100-Million Year Old Bird Found In Amber

The same team was responsible for the detailed photographs of a dinosaur tail preserved in amber, which were released last December.

Discovered in northern Myanmar, the young bird is the most complete specimen found in Burmese amber to date.

The fossilized specimen was purchased in Myanmar in 2014 by Guang Chen, director of the Hupoge Amber Museum in Tengchong City, China, after he had heard about an amber sample with a unusual "lizard claw" inclusion.

Researchers in Myanmar have found a 99 million year old bird encased in amber - but don't expect the discovery to be the beginnings of a Jurassic Park-style resort. The young bird is nearly entirely preserved, as its small head, neck, a partial wing, and a clawed foot can be seen in the 3-inch piece of fossilized amber. "It's just stunning", the study's co-author Ryan McKellar, of Canada's Royal Saskatchewan Museum, told New Scientist.

An artist's reconstruction of the bird.

Their newest specimen belongs to a group of birds that went extinct 65 million years ago. It also has some soft tissue on its tail and feathers.

Scientists say a bird hatchling dug up by amber hunters in Burma died halfway through its first feather moult

Unfortunately, researchers aren't able to harvest DNA from the fossil, but some other things, such as the feather keratin, can help reveal the bird's colors.

'The proportions of the bird and morphology of the plumage indicate a very young individual, adding the mounting data that the Enantiornithes were highly precocial; however, the scarcity of body feathers represents a distinct departure from living precocial birds. "I'm guessing that part of the reason we're seeing so many of these juveniles or hatchling specimens trapped in Burmese amber is that there's a lot of mortality on the way up the trees or in the first few weeks of life".

New Scientist notes that the "unfortunate youngster" (because there's nothing like falling into a puddle of sticky pine sap that you can't get out of, ever; then again, talk about legacy!) belonged to a group of birds known as "opposite birds" - creatures that lived along with the ancestors of modern birds.

From the outside, the bird's feet are clearly visible, complete with claws, scales, and even preserved skin!

"Belone" is now displayed at the Hupoge Amber Museum, but will be moved to the Shanghai Museum of Natural History from June 24 until the end of July.

  • Salvatore Jensen