A 100 Million-Year-Old Bird Caught In Amber
Oftentimes when we talk about amber, we’re actually looking at literal time capsules. All sorts of plants and insects are being trapped in it and then we discover them, millions of years later. This time, however, scientists have come across the most complete bird yet. To be fair, small fragments of birds and dinosaurs have been discovered trapped in amber, but not like this.
This 100-million-year-old baby bird was found in Myanmar, and it contains the head, neck, wing, tail and feet. The poor baby bird was only a few days old when it became trapped in sap coming from a conifer tree. For those of us who don’t know, amber is actually hardened tree sap.
“It’s the most complete and detailed view we’ve ever had,” says Ryan McKellar of the Royal Saskatchewan Museum, Regina, in Canada, a member of the team. “Seeing something this complete is amazing. It’s just stunning.”
And it truly is amazing. We don’t really have a chance of looking at skin and flesh of a 100-million-year old animal, but this time we have. Now, to be fair, what we have there is a very detailed impression of the bird. Scientists studying organisms trapped in amber have realised that their organic material has been broken down into carbon over the millennia and there’s no actual usable DNA to be studied or used for any kind of Jurassic Park-style experiments.
But what we do have here, is the actual look of a 100-million year baby bird. As it turns out, the chick was part of a group known as ‘opposite birds‘. They lived alongside the dinosaurs and the ancestors of present-day birds. They, unfortunately, or not, died out alongside the dinosaurs some 65 million years ago. According to previous fossil finds, these species of birds had hatched with flight feathers already in place – so that they could fend for themselves almost immediately.
This new amber discovery reinforces that fact since this baby bird did have flight feathers. Scientists also speculate that these birds hatched on the ground and then began climbing into trees. This also makes it more likely to get trapped in amber.