Nearly 100 million years ago, a dinosaur died young in the midst of the forest. Now its tale is being told with the help of its feathery tail, which was preserved for the ages in a chunk of amber.
The sparrow-sized reptile was still growing when it perished of unknown causes, perhaps by getting stuck in the tree resin that would eventually entomb it. After its demise, the resin engulfed its tail, eventually hardening into a translucent, topaz-colored gem.
That gem, tail included, has been salvaged from a Burmese mine and subjected to scientific scrutiny. The amber is the first known to contain dinosaur feathering. It safeguarded the fluffy plumage so well that researchers can identify the finest details of the feathers’ structure.