Time Machine: Dinosaur Feathers in Amber

Laurie says:

I was originally simply appreciating the beauty of the photographs of the feathers in amber, and then I started to think about them more.

From the BBC : Samples of amber in western Canada containing feathers from dinosaurs and birds have yielded the most complete story of feather evolution ever seen.

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Eleven fragments show the progression from hair-like “filaments” to doubly-branched feathers of modern birds. The analysis of the 80-million-year-old amber deposits is presented in Science. The find, along with an accompanying article analysing feather pigment, adds to the idea that many dinosaurs sported feathers – some brightly coloured.

Recent years have seen a proliferation of reports about the beginnings of feathers as we know them now in birds. So-called compression fossils found in China bear outlines of primitive “filament” feathers that are more akin to hair. But modern feathers are highly branched and structured, and the full story of how those came to be had not yet been revealed by the fossil record.

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Now, a study of amber found near Grassy Lake in Alberta – dating from what is known as the Late Cretaceous period – has unearthed a full range of feather structures that demonstrates the progression. ….”We’re catching some that look to be dinosaur feathers and another set that are pretty much dead ringers for modern birds.”

…In fact, a picture is emerging that suggests many dinosaurs were not the dull-coloured, reptilian-skinned creatures that they were once thought to be. “If you were to transport yourself back 80 million years to western North America and walk around the forest… many of the animals would have been feathered,” said Dr Norell. “We’re getting more and more evidence… that these animals were also brightly coloured, just like birds are today.”

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I am imagining  Cretaceous meadows and forests with brilliantly feather dinosaurs and birds in varied shapes and sizes. I really want a time machine tonight.