A Feathered Dinosaur Tail with Primitive Plumage Trapped in Mid-Cretaceous Amber

Published on Dec 1, 2016in Current Biology9.19
· DOI :10.1016/j.cub.2016.10.008
Lida Xing18
Estimated H-index: 18
(China University of Geosciences),
Ryan C. McKellar5
Estimated H-index: 5
(University of Regina)
+ 11 AuthorsPhilip J. Currie50
Estimated H-index: 50
(U of A: University of Alberta)
Summary In the two decades since the discovery of feathered dinosaurs [1–3], the range of plumage known from non-avialan theropods has expanded significantly, confirming several features predicted by developmentally informed models of feather evolution [4–10]. However, three-dimensional feather morphology and evolutionary patterns remain difficult to interpret, due to compression in sedimentary rocks [9, 11]. Recent discoveries in Cretaceous amber from Canada, France, Japan, Lebanon, Myanmar, and the United States [12–18] reveal much finer levels of structural detail, but taxonomic placement is uncertain because plumage is rarely associated with identifiable skeletal material [14]. Here we describe the feathered tail of a non-avialan theropod preserved in mid-Cretaceous (∼99 Ma) amber from Kachin State, Myanmar [17], with plumage structure that directly informs the evolutionary developmental pathway of feathers. This specimen provides an opportunity to document pristine feathers in direct association with a putative juvenile coelurosaur, preserving fine morphological details, including the spatial arrangement of follicles and feathers on the body, and micrometer-scale features of the plumage. Many feathers exhibit a short, slender rachis with alternating barbs and a uniform series of contiguous barbules, supporting the developmental hypothesis that barbs already possessed barbules when they fused to form the rachis [19]. Beneath the feathers, carbonized soft tissues offer a glimpse of preservational potential and history for the inclusion; abundant Fe 2+ suggests that vestiges of primary hemoglobin and ferritin remain trapped within the tail. The new finding highlights the unique preservation potential of amber for understanding the morphology and evolution of coelurosaurian integumentary structures.
  • References (31)
  • Citations (32)
#1Lida Xing (China University of Geosciences)H-Index: 18
#2Ryan C. McKellar (University of Regina)H-Index: 5
Last.Xing Xu (CAS: Chinese Academy of Sciences)H-Index: 41
view all 13 authors...
#1Jingmai K. O’Connor (CAS: Chinese Academy of Sciences)H-Index: 9
#2Xiaoli Wang (LYU: Linyi University)H-Index: 17
Last.ZHOUZhonghe (CAS: Chinese Academy of Sciences)H-Index: 47
view all 6 authors...
#1Chih-Feng Chen (NCHU: National Chung Hsing University)H-Index: 15
#2John FoleyH-Index: 19
Last.Cheng-Ming Chuong (SC: University of Southern California)H-Index: 61
view all 8 authors...
#1Xing Xu (CAS: Chinese Academy of Sciences)H-Index: 41
#2ZHOUZhonghe (CAS: Chinese Academy of Sciences)H-Index: 47
Last.David J. Varricchio (MSU: Montana State University)H-Index: 28
view all 7 authors...
#1Mary H. Schweitzer (NCSU: North Carolina State University)H-Index: 24
#2Wenxia Zheng (NCSU: North Carolina State University)H-Index: 10
Last.Sirine C. Fakra (LBNL: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory)H-Index: 35
view all 8 authors...
#1W. Scott Persons (U of A: University of Alberta)H-Index: 13
#2Philip J. Currie (U of A: University of Alberta)H-Index: 50
Last.Mark A. Norell (AMNH: American Museum of Natural History)H-Index: 57
view all 3 authors...
Cited By32
#1Tian Jiang (CAS: Chinese Academy of Sciences)
#2Jacek Szwedo (CAS: Chinese Academy of Sciences)
Last.Bo Wang (CAS: Chinese Academy of Sciences)H-Index: 33
view all 3 authors...
#1Lida Xing (China University of Geosciences)H-Index: 18
#2Ryan C. McKellar (KU: University of Kansas)H-Index: 12
Last.Luis M. Chiappe (Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County)H-Index: 45
view all 6 authors...
#1Lida Xing (China University of Geosciences)H-Index: 18
#2Donghao Wang (China University of Geosciences)
Last.Susan E. Evans (UCL: University College London)H-Index: 38
view all 0 authors...
#1Thomas A. Neubauer (University of Giessen)H-Index: 10
#2Lida Xing (China University of Geosciences)
Last.Adrienne Jochum (University of Bern)H-Index: 6
view all 0 authors...
View next paperGeology of an amber locality in the Hukawng Valley, Northern Myanmar