RARE DINOSAUR-ERA BIRD WINGS FOUND TRAPPED IN AMBER
Bone, tissue and feathers show the almost 100-million year old wings are remarkably similar to those on modern birds.
Two tiny wings entombed in amber reveal that plumage(the layering, patterning, coloring and arrangement of feathers) seen in birds today already existed in at least some of their predecessors nearly a hundred million years ago.
A study of the mummified wings, published in the June 28 issue of National Geographic Expeditions Council, indicated they most likely belonged toenantiornithes, a group of avian dinosaurs that became extinct at the end of the Cretaceous period.
While the fact that many, if not nearly all, dinosaurs were feathered has been generally accepted since the 1990s, our knowledge of prehistoric plumage until now has come from feather imprints in carbonized compression fossils and individual feathers fossilized in amber.
But while feather imprints in compression fossils may show arrangement, they generally lack very fine detail and rarely preserve information on color, while individual feathers in amber cannot be associated with the animal they originally came from.
Skin, muscle, claws, and feather shafts are visible, along with the remains of rows of feathers similar in arrangement and micro structure to modern birds.
Two new samples, weighing in at only 0.06 and 0.3 ounces (1.6 and 8.51 grams), contain bone structure, tracts of feathers, and soft tissue. They are the first Cretaceous plumage samples to be studied that are not simply isolated feathers, according to a study.