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This 99-Million-Year-Old Baby Bird Fossil Is Unlike Anything Ever Seen

The amber-encased hatchling, found in Myanmar, features feathers, skin, and other tissue.

09/06/2017 4:09 AM IST | Updated 09/06/2017 4:09 AM IST

A remarkable piece of amber dated to 99 million years ago has left scientists stunned after an astonishingly well-preserved baby bird was discovered inside.

The fossilized hatchling, which would have lived in the time of the dinosaurs, was revealed in the journal Gondwana Research on Tuesday where’s it’s celebrated as the “most complete bird” specimen found in amber to date.

“Seeing something this complete is amazing. It’s just stunning,” the study’s co-author Ryan McKellar, of Canada’s Royal Saskatchewan Museum, told New Scientist

The type of bird encased in the amber, which was found in Myanmar, belonged to a group of toothed birds called Enantiornithes, according to the report in Gondwana Research.

In addition to teeth, the bird had claws on its wings. The bones in its ankles were also different for normal birds, McKellar told Gizmodo. 

Though images of the amber almost clearly show a full bird with its small claws and wings spread, it took years before the full magnitude of its contents were discovered.

Guang Chen, the director of the Hupoge Amber Museum in Tengchong City, China, purchased the amber in 2014, National Geographic reported.

Lida Xing, of the China University of Geosciences in Beijing, said Chen later presented her with the sample for review. When she first saw it, she thought it only contained some feet and feathers. Then they put it through CT imaging.

“It was a big, big, big surprise after that,” she told National Geographic.

“The surprise continued when we started examining the distribution of feathers and realized that there were translucent sheets of skin that connected many of the body regions appearing in the CT scan data,” added McKellar.

The fossil is currently on display in the Hupoge Amber Museum. It will travel to the Shanghai Museum of Natural History this summer.

Check out the photos below.

  • Ming Bai/Chinese Academy Of Sciences
    A piece of amber that contains the remains of a 99-million-year-old fossilized bird.
  • Ming Bai/Chinese Academy Of Sciences
    A part of a wing encased in the amber that contains the remains of a 99-million-year-old fossilized bird.
  • Ming Bai/Chinese Academy Of Sciences
    A part of a claw encased in the amber that contains the remains of a 99-million-year-old fossilized bird.
  • Ming Bai/Chinese Academy Of Sciences
    A part of a leg encased in the amber that contains the remains of a 99-million-year-old fossilized bird.
  • Ming Bai/Chinese Academy Of Sciences
    A part of a wing encased in the amber that contains the remains of a 99-million-year-old fossilized bird.
  • Chung-Tat Cheung/Chinese Academy of Sciences
    An illustration of the bird that was found fossilized in amber.
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