Check Out This Prehistoric Bird Wing Perfectly Preserved in Amber

Source: Courtesy of Royal Saskatchewan Museum (RSM/ R.C. McKellar)

New evidence suggests birds haven't changed much in the past 100 million years. Scientists have discovered a pair of ancient bird wings perfectly preserved in Burmese amber. 

They think the fossilized wings came from baby birds that got stuck in tree sap about 100 million years ago. It's rare to find whole feathers in such pristine condition, and the discovery could provide invaluable insight into Cretaceous period birds.

Feather preserved in amber.
Source: 
Courtesy of Royal Saskatchewan Museum (RSM/ R.C. McKellar)

The fossils belong to a group of birds called Enantiornithes that died out around the same time as the dinosaurs. Both wings are only about 2 or 3 centimeters long, but you can see bits of skin, muscle, claws and feather shafts that resemble those of modern birds, according to the research describing the discovery. 

"These specimens demonstrate that the plumage types associated with modern birds were present within single individuals of Enantiornithes by the Cenomanian (99 million years ago)," the authors wrote in the study

That means modern birds haven't had to adapt much at all in the past 100 million years.

Illustration of a bird getting stuck in sap.
Source: 
Chung-tat Cheung

Normally feathers don't get preserved in fossils. They disappear and leave behind only faint impressions in rock layers, so this is a very rare find.

We now know that most dinosaurs were probably feathered. The wings could help researchers learn more about feather structure during this time period and give us a clearer picture of how dinosaurs are related to modern birds.  

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