Amber is one of the most interesting substances you might ever come across. In its rough form it can pass for some mineral, but when cut and polished can pass off as a curious and precious stone. It’s not, really. That’s actually the hardened sap or resin of tress, usually of prehistoric eras, which then turned into fossils after being buried in the earth for some very long periods of time. They’re also well known for the high possibility of having little creatures end up getting trapped by the resin back in the day, and thus end up being preserved inside the hardened amber.
To refresh the memories of movie fans, amber plays a big role in the overarching story of the “Jurassic Park” franchise, with the scientists who created the park having siphoned dinosaur blood from amber-trapped prehistoric mosquitoes to recreate the dinosaurs. That sounds real neat for fiction, but a new discovery in the real world may have trumped it entirely. CNN reports that a Chinese paleontologist stumbled across an amber piece with some very astonishing content at a Myanmar amber market near the China-Myanmar border. Were it not for Xing Lida’s intervention, that amber piece would’ve been turned into a piece of jewelry made even prettier by the leaf entombed inside of it. But Xing will be the first to tell you, it’s no leaf.
What’s inside the amber is the fragment of a dinosaur’s tail. Yes, the tail of an honest to goodness dinosaur was trapped in the yellow stuff. That’s way more valuable than possible blood from a mosquito, huh? Anyway, further study by Xing and his associate, Canadian paleontologist Ryan McKellar from the Royal Saskatchewan Museum have identified the prehistoric reptile that owned the tail as a baby coelurosaurian. To elaborate, coelurosaurians are the dinosaur clade (group) that is said to be the closest prehistoric relations of birds as we know them. Interestingly, the coelurosaurian group contains the tyrannosaurid sub-group that includes the star dinosaur Tyrannosaurus rex.
Back to the dinosaur tail find, the creature in question was supposedly one of the smallest of its classification, such that if it had been alive it could fit in the palm of an adult man. Another exciting feature found in the tail fragment were perfectly preserved feathers, further reinforcing the new trend of dinosaur appearance hypotheses that indeed, some of them may have had feathers rather than the popular scaly skin, including the T-Rex itself.
Oh, and if anybody’s wondering about extracting dinosaur blood from the amber to recreate the dinosaur inside a la “Jurassic Park”, McKellar puts the kibosh on that; yes there is some blood in the tail, but that has long since decayed, along with any DNA. So that idea stays sci-fi for now.
Photo Credit to https://www.cnet.com/