Dinosaur tail found in Amber

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Dinosaur tail found in Amber

Postby Sea Skimmer » 2016-12-10 12:02am

Jurassic Park points increase 10,000%!

See mor images at link
http://arstechnica.com/science/2016/12/ ... -feathers/
[img]Lucky find offers our first look at a dinosaur tail, complete with feathers
The tip of a small dinosaur's tail was preserved in amber for 99 million years.

Annalee Newitz - 12/8/2016, 1:57 PM


Geoscientist Lida Xing was shopping at an amber market in Myitkyina, Myanmar in 2015 when he saw an unusual piece of amber. Trapped inside was a small object that the amber merchants thought was a sprig of leaves. But Xing thought something much more interesting was going on, so he decided to take a closer look. What he found could change our understanding of how feathers evolved.

Xing had discovered eight fully preserved vertebrae from a young, non-avian dinosaur called a coelurosaur. As an adult it would have been about the size of an ostrich, but this juvenile was still tiny enough to get trapped in tree sap and never escape. Feathers covered its tail, but at the tip they fluffed out in a pattern that suggested this animal may have had a fan-shaped tail. After Xing convinced the Dexu Institute of Paleontology to buy the amber, he and an international group of colleagues in China, England, and Canada examined it closely, using a number of imaging techniques that allowed them to generate 3-D reconstructions of the tail structure.

Xing worked on imaging the tail with Ryan McKellar of the Royal Saskatchewan Museum in Canada. In a statement, McKellar confirmed it is unmistakably a dinosaur: "We can be sure of the source because the vertebrae are not fused into a rod or pygostyle as in modern birds and their closest relatives. Instead, the tail is long and flexible, with keels of feathers running down each side." Chemical analysis of the remains also showed traces of iron, meaning that it probably contained hemoglobin when the dinosaur was alive. Previous studies have shown that other dinosaurs, including the infamous T. rex, had hemoglobin as well.

In a paper for Current Biology, Xing, McKellar, and colleagues describe "the spatial arrangement of follicles and feathers on the body, and micrometer-scale features of the plumage," which led them to a new insight about how feathers likely evolved. Modern bird feathers have a thick central quill called a rachis, and from that branch barbs covered in the soft barbules provide the feather with color and a structure that enables flight. This young coelurosaur's tail has barbs and barbules only, though one central barb is in the same position that a rachis would be on a modern bird.

What this means is that feathers appear to have started out as what some paleontologists call "dinofuzz," a soft, downy covering for warmth.

The tail was also colorful, likely a rich, chestnut brown on top and a creamy white underneath. The researchers explain that the closest modern analogue to these feathers would be ornamental, decorative ones: "The open, flexible structure of these feathers is more analogous to modern ornamental feathers than to flight feathers... If the entire tail bore plumage similar to that trapped in DIP-V-15103, the feather bearer would likely have been incapable of flight."

Bristol University paleobiologist Jacob Vinther told NPR's Rae Ellen Bichell that this structure also meant that colorful, iridescent feathers may have evolved before ones capable of flight. "I think the fact that the finest branches, which could have harbored this bright iridescence, got established before we got very robust feathers—that could potentially lean toward this idea that feathers were mainly used to show off before they got used to fly with," Vinther said. "Perhaps a greater number of dinosaurs, and more primitive dinosaurs, could have been iridescent."

So at least in feathered dinosaurs, beauty came before flight on evolution's road.

Current Biology, 2016. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2016.10.008

Listing image by Royal Saskatchewan Museum (RSM/ R.C. McKellar)

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Re: Dinosaur tail found in Amber

Postby Napoleon the Clown » 2016-12-10 01:39am

My dad was texting me last night about this, joking that millenials had made dinosaurs sissies. My response was that we had made birds more badass.


It's pretty neat to have another example of a feathered dinosaur. I'm curious as to just what portion of them had feathers vs not.
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Re: Dinosaur tail found in Amber

Postby Guardsman Bass » 2016-12-10 04:11am

Napoleon the Clown wrote:My dad was texting me last night about this, joking that millenials had made dinosaurs sissies. My response was that we had made birds more badass.


It's pretty neat to have another example of a feathered dinosaur. I'm curious as to just what portion of them had feathers vs not.


Most of the Therapod dinosaurs would have been feathered as juveniles, with some keeping their feathers into adulthood. Those were nearly all of the bipedal predator dinosaurs, from Tyrannosaurs to Allosaurs to Velociraptors.

It's not so certain with the rest of them (including the majority of herbivores). I think they've found a few quadruped herbivore dinosaurs with evidence for feathers (or something like feathers), but overall the evidence isn't strong.
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Re: Dinosaur tail found in Amber

Postby LadyTevar » 2016-12-12 06:54pm

My Google-Fu is failing me, but wasn't there a similar article a few months back where they found the preserved skeleton of a baby therapod in amber?
IIRC, it was also found in a market that sold amber jewelry. Could this be a missing portion of that same baby?
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Re: Dinosaur tail found in Amber

Postby Solauren » 2016-12-12 09:34pm

Guardsman Bass wrote:
Napoleon the Clown wrote:My dad was texting me last night about this, joking that millenials had made dinosaurs sissies. My response was that we had made birds more badass.


It's pretty neat to have another example of a feathered dinosaur. I'm curious as to just what portion of them had feathers vs not.


Most of the Therapod dinosaurs would have been feathered as juveniles, with some keeping their feathers into adulthood. Those were nearly all of the bipedal predator dinosaurs, from Tyrannosaurs to Allosaurs to Velociraptors.

It's not so certain with the rest of them (including the majority of herbivores). I think they've found a few quadruped herbivore dinosaurs with evidence for feathers (or something like feathers), but overall the evidence isn't strong.


I hadn't heard that. It makes some sense for the hatchlings to have down, maybe even even thin 'proto-feathers' for a while, but after that, I have trouble visualizing WHY a Stegosaurus, Triceratops, or Ankylosaurus would need feathers.

Mind you, the mental image of something the size of a large Sauropod (i.e Titanosaurus) having a full coat of feathers is just to damn funny...

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Re: Dinosaur tail found in Amber

Postby Sea Skimmer » 2016-12-13 12:23pm

Why? Insulation probably. If they really were both hot and cold blooded they may well have needed feathers to protect exposed areas like tails necks and and ankles from variations in exterior temperature beyond the ability of their partial warm blooded heat production to match. The world was a fair bit warmer then sure, but that doesn't mean dinos wouldn't need this, walking over a high hill in bad weather for example a human can freeze to death with 50F ambient temperature. Obviously the bigger they'd get the less it would matter, which is why it's doubtful a sauropod would be feathered extensively.

Some people think the feathers were some sexual selection thing, but I don't buy that because the feathers would have had to start very very small in evolutionary terms. So small other animals would literally have trouble seeing them, while the metabolic cost of growing them is high. Any selection role would surely come later as the plumage became more significant.
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Re: Dinosaur tail found in Amber

Postby jwl » 2016-12-19 07:33am

No-one has mentioned Jurassic Park yet?

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Re: Dinosaur tail found in Amber

Postby Shroom Man 777 » 2016-12-19 08:46am

Even larger mammalianoids like buffalo and giraffes have fur so equivalently-sized dinosaurians might have fur-like feathers? Of course when they reach elephant-like mass, or rhino-like mass, such things might not be as much of a concern? Depending on where... furry elephants did exist...
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Re: Dinosaur tail found in Amber

Postby Thanas » 2016-12-19 09:01am

jwl wrote:No-one has mentioned Jurassic Park yet?


Nobody except the OP in his first line lol.
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Re: Dinosaur tail found in Amber

Postby Flagg » 2016-12-19 09:40am

Thanas wrote:
jwl wrote:No-one has mentioned Jurassic Park yet?


Nobody except the OP in his first line lol.

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Re: Dinosaur tail found in Amber

Postby The Romulan Republic » 2016-12-21 06:46am

Shroom Man 777 wrote:Even larger mammalianoids like buffalo and giraffes have fur so equivalently-sized dinosaurians might have fur-like feathers? Of course when they reach elephant-like mass, or rhino-like mass, such things might not be as much of a concern? Depending on where... furry elephants did exist...


So if I'm understanding this all correctly, its theorized that the progression in how feathers were used was first as insulation, then for display, and only later for flight?
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Re: Dinosaur tail found in Amber

Postby Shroom Man 777 » 2016-12-21 06:44pm

I'm no biomagus but sure? I mean those initial mutations or adaptations could not have been automatically be so developed as to be... formed in a way that would help for flight. The initial manifestations of feathery crap would have to be pretty half-assed... something just useful for things like insulation. Like how the first legs were probably just to help sea creatures undulate better... it's not like they automatically grew cheetah legs. Gliding-flight would require more developed sorts of feathers and is a complex activity. Whereas some stubble to help El Reptilio keep warm seems simpler.
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Re: Dinosaur tail found in Amber

Postby SpottedKitty » 2016-12-21 06:50pm

The Romulan Republic wrote:So if I'm understanding this all correctly, its theorized that the progression in how feathers were used was first as insulation, then for display, and only later for flight?

That's pretty much how evolution works; existing bits of anatomy are repurposed again and again and again. If this goes on long enough, it might not be easy to recognise what the original anatomy did, or even what it looked like.
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Re: Dinosaur tail found in Amber

Postby Alyrium Denryle » 2016-12-28 01:35pm

Sea Skimmer wrote:Some people think the feathers were some sexual selection thing, but I don't buy that because the feathers would have had to start very very small in evolutionary terms. So small other animals would literally have trouble seeing them, while the metabolic cost of growing them is high. Any selection role would surely come later as the plumage became more significant.


Feathers are basically modified scales on their own they are not that expensive to produce, particularly if they are small, and the whole point of a structure under sexual selection is that it is costly to produce. "Gaze upon my feathers, I managed to grow these despite horrible living conditions which means I am a genetic badass. Fuck me!" is basically what they are saying.

For most birds, the pigments (or reflective surfaces for the irridecent colors) are actually the part that is costly to produce. Once the feather evolves initially (for insulation), well... now there is a structure upon which sexual selection can act. Start off with down infused with red and black pigments (or something like that), then in some lineages (therapods) you start getting display structures on the forearms and tail made of symmetrical feathers with gaudy pigments or iridescent physical structures. At which point, some arboreal lineages might be using them for stabilization on branches or for parachuting and asymmetrical flight feathers evolve. At which point you get gliders. When they end up on the ground, the same motion used for flight can also be used to assist in climbing (wing assisted incline running).

But that never would have been possible without sexual selection for larger display structures.
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