99 million year old bird wings are remarkably similar to those of modern birds.
Birds were flapping their wings in the dinosaur age too as thousands of bird fossils have been discovered embedded in the sediments or inside a rock before.
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Now, an international team of researchers have found a rare bird fossil that is encased in amber and is comprised of two tiny wings including the wing’s bone and three fingers with a claw. Researchers suggest that a giant baby bird got stuck in tree resin around 99 million years ago. The bird tried to tear itself away but could not and met the unfortunate demise. The tree resin solidified over the years and now it is in the form of an amber piece.
“There appear to be claw marks in the resin, which would suggest a struggle.” Co-author Ryan McKellar, a curator of invertebrate paleontology at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum in Regina, Canada.
The wing fossils are recovered from an amber deposit in northeastern Myanmar. Close examination with microscopes and CT scans reveal that the wings belong to enantiornithine birds, a major group of birds in the Cretaceous Period, which was died out at the same time as the dinosaurs, around 66 million years ago.
The fossils wings are tiny just few centimeters long but remarkably well preserved and provide a unique insight into the characteristics of the birds of dinosaur age.
“The fact that the tiny birds were clambering about in the trees suggests that they had advanced development, meaning they were ready for action as soon as they hatched,” said lead author Dr Xing Lida from China University of Geosciences in Beijing.
“These birds did not hang about in the nest waiting to be fed, but set off looking for food, and sadly died perhaps because of their small size and lack of experience. Isolated feathers in other amber samples show that adult birds might have avoided the sticky sap or pulled themselves free.”
On previous occasions, individual feathers or feather fragments have been discovered inside amber but it is a rarity to found two complete wings which have retained their original color with exact arrangement of feathers in a piece of amber.
The structures and features of the wings are remarkably similar to those of modern day birds, in fact, the particular specimen looks like an incompletely developed hummingbird.
"This is the first time that feathers have been found alongside skeletal material in Mesozoic (dinosaur-age) amber,” McKellar told Live Science in an email.
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“The work with microscopes under a wide range of lighting conditions allowed us to examine the feathers, claws and skin - seeing minute details of the feathers and their pigmentation.”