Well Preserved young bird fossils with exceptional details found in Burmese amber

Well Preserved young bird fossils with exceptional details found in Burmese amber

Researchers have found fossils of young bird with remarkable details locked in Burmese amber. The Burmese amber has managed to well preserve fossils with most of skull and neck. The fossil also includes a partial wing, claws, soft tissue of the tail and hindlimbs. The research team reported that fossils belong to juvenile enantiornithine birds. The bird could be just a few days old when it got trapped in amber. Complete details of the research team findings have been published in the journal Gondwana Research.

The research team estimates that the bird could have lived during the Cretaceous Period. Ryan McKellar, a paleontologist at Canada's Royal Saskatchewan Museum said, “Enantiornithines are close relatives to modern birds, and in general, they would have looked very similar. However, this group of birds still had teeth and claws on their wings.”

Due to their distinct hip and ankle bones, enantiornithine birds could have flown differently from modern day bird species. The research team added that the amber fossil doesn’t show any signs of struggle. “The hatchling may have been dead by the time it entered the resin pool”, McKellar added. “One of the leg bones has been dragged away from its natural position, suggesting that the corpse may have been scavenged before it was covered by the next flow of resin.”

A report published by National Geographic informed, “Mined in the Hukawng Valley in northern Myanmar, Burmese amber deposits contain possibly the largest variety of animal and plant life from the Cretaceous period, which lasted from 145.5 to 65.5 million years ago. Nearly half of the body is preserved in the three-inch sample, including its head, wings, skin, feathers and a clawed foot clearly visible to the naked eye.”

The amber treasure will soon be put on display at the Shanghai Museum of Natural History until the end of July.

The research paper further informed…

The hatchling was encapsulated during the earliest stages of its feather production, providing a point for comparisons to other forms of body fossils, as well as isolated feathers found in Cretaceous ambers. The plumage preserves an unusual combination of precocial and altricial features unlike any living hatchling bird, having functional remiges combined with sparse body feathers.

Unusual feather morphotypes on the legs, feet, and tail suggest that first generation feathers in the Enantiornithes may have been much more like contour feathers than the natal down observed in many modern birds. However, these regions also preserve filamentous feathers that appear comparable to the protofeathers observed in more primitive theropods.

Overall, the new specimen brings a new level of detail to our understanding of the anatomy of the juvenile stages of the most species-rich clade of pre-modern birds and contributes to mounting data that enantiornithine development drastically differed from that of Neornithes.