Researchers were shocked to find the remains of a baby bird perfectly preserved in a chunk of 99 million-year-old amber, according to a study published Tuesday in Gondwana Research.
The bird, thought to have been just days or weeks old when it was engulfed in tree resin, belonged to a group of birds called enantiornithes, which became extinct 65 million years ago alongside dinosaurs.
Preserved feathers show that the hatchling died during its first feather molt, indicating that it was entombed in amber within the first days or weeks of its life.
Highlights from ScienceDirect Article
- We report on the most complete bird preserved encased in Amber uncovered to date, including most of the skull and neck, a partial wing and hindlimb, and soft tissue of the tail, the morphologies of which refer this specimen to the Enantiornithes.
- 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.
- The plumage includes filamentous body feathers that resemble proto-feathers, scutellae with distal bristle-structures, mature remiges, and erupting ornamental rectrices, revealing an unexpected diversity of primitive and derived feather morphotypes present in the plumage of early birds.