Updated 8:25 pm, Thursday, June 8, 2017
A sticky situation for a baby bird 99 million years ago is a coup for modern scientists.
The hatchling, which was just a few days old when it stumbled into a pool of tree sap, roamed the Earth nearly 100 million years ago.
Scientists, who published their findings in the journal Gondwana Research, say the specimen is the most complete fossil ever discovered in Burmese amber.
Bird caught in amber 100 million years ago is best ever found https://t.co/r8K4PGAPEv pic.twitter.com/5V3wfuW0CD
— New Scientist (@newscientist) June 8, 2017
“It’s the most complete and detailed view we’ve ever had,” Ryan McKellar of the Royal Saskatchewan Museum, co-author of the paper, told New Scientist. “Seeing something this complete is amazing. It’s just stunning.”
After years encased in amber, the bird’s flesh has likely broken down into carbon, McKellar explained, meaning none of its DNA remains. What is left, however, is a detailed impression of the creature.
“It’s neat because it preserves a very early growth stage,” McKellar told Gizmodo, noting that the bird had just begun to grow its tail feathers.
The hatchling belongs to a group of toothed birds called enantiornithines, which went extinct alongside the dinosaurs about 65 million years ago. Unlike the birds of today, the enantiornithine had claws on its wings and teeth in place of a beak.
Researchers named the specimen “Belone,” the Burmese word for Oriental skylark. With further study, Belone could provide critical insight into the peculiar lives of the ancient toothed birds of yesteryear.
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